The downside of fish spas

The downside of fish spas

It's a holiday today, so we are recycling one of our most popular stories ever. Having little fish clean off the dead skin of your feet can be a relaxing experience, but there may be a risk of serious infection

Surprise hit

We can be quite certain that a story about a major news event here in Thailand (military coup, Koh Tao murders, etc.) will get a look of readers, but for other stories we can only guess. Here is one of our biggest surprises. This story was first posted in March 2011, but it is still getting readers today. On some days it gets several hundred.

The downside of fish spas

Thailand is fast becoming one of the world’s top spots for spa treatments, so it is not surprising that fish spas are big here as well. 

They have grown rapidly in popularity in recent years as they have started appearing in shopping centres, walking streets and tourist areas.

Somchai Pinyopornpanch, director general of the Public Health Ministry's Health Services Support Department says there are 1,341 fish spas registered with the Interior Ministry but it is estimated a further 3,000 unregistered spas are in operation.

Fish spa treatment basically involves customers placing their feet into a water tank filled with toothless garra rufa fish – also known as "doctor fish". Within seconds, an army of fish will gather at the customer's feet and nibble the dead skin tissue away. The treatment typically costs 200-300 baht for a 30-minute session.

Most customers find the treatment to be relaxing and it seems harmless enough, but now the president of the Dermatological Society of Thailand is warning that fish spas are not risk-free.

Assoc Prof Nopadon Noppakun says fish spa operators who fail to keep hygienic standards are putting their customers at great risk.

"It's both the fish and the water that could cause infection," he says.

"The point is whether or not fish spa operators change the spa water regularly.

“Let's just put it this way: when we medical practitioners clean a patient's wound, we use sterilised medical tools for every patient and we won't reuse them with the next patient for infection-control reasons," Dr Nopadon explains.

"A customer steps into the spa water and if, unfortunately, he or she happens to have an infectious wound, the infection can definitely spread to other people who step into that very same spa tank."

The risk of infection recently caused 14 US states to ban fish spas.
Adapted from story by Arusa Pisuthipan

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  • appear: to be seen - ปรากฏ
  • ban: to officially say that someone is not allowed to do something   - ห้ามอย่างเป็นทางการ
  • basically: in the most important ways, without considering things that are less important - โดยพื้นฐาน, โดยแท้จริง, โดยทั่วๆ ไป
  • Dermatological (adj): involving the scientific study of skin diseases - เกี่ยวกับผิวหนังวิทยา, เกี่ยวกับการศึกษาเกี่ยวกับโรคผิวหนัง
  • downside: the disadvantages or less positive aspects of something - ผลเสีย
  • estimate (verb): to say what you think an amount or value is or will be, either by using available information or by guessing - คาดคะเน, ประมาณการ
  • gather (verb): to come/bring together in a group - รวมกลุ่ม, รวมตัวกัน, จับกลุ่มกัน, ชุมนุม
  • harmless: unable or unlikely to cause damage or harm - ซึ่งไม่เป็นอันตราย
  • hygienic: clean and not likely to cause illness or disease - ถูกสุขอนามัย
  • in operation: working; doing business - ดำเนินการ
  • infection: a disease or medical condition that is caused by a bacteria or by a virus or a parasite - การติดเชื้อ
  • infectious: able to cause an infection - ติดต่อกันได้
  • Interior Ministry: the Thai ministry with responsibility over the Royal Thai Police, local administrations, internal security, citizenship, disaster management, land management, issuing national identity cards and public works - กระทรวงมหาดไทย
  • involve (verb): to be an important or necessary part or result of something - เกี่ยวพัน, เกี่ยวข้อง, พัวพัน
  • nibble: to take small bites of something, especially food - เล็ม, แทะ, กัดทีละน้อย
  • patient: someone who is receiving medical treatment - คนป่วย, คนไข้
  • popularity: a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - ความเป็นที่นิยม, ความเป็นที่ชื่นชอบ
  • practitioner (noun): a person who works in a profession, especially medicine or law - ผู้ประกอบกิจ
  • register: to put your name and other information on an official list in order to be allowed to do something, e.g., vote, study, stay in a hotel etc - ลงทะเบียน
  • regularly: done or happening often, especially with the same time and space in between each activity and the next - เป็นประจำ, เสมอๆ
  • relaxing: helping you to rest and become less anxious - ซึ่งช่วยให้ผ่อนคลาย
  • risk: the possibility that something dangerous or unpleasant might happen - ความเสี่ยง
  • session (noun): a period of time that is spent doing a particular activity -
  • spot: the particular place where someone or something is - ที่, สถานที่
  • spread: to (cause to) cover, reach or have an effect on a wider or increasing area or number of people - แพร่กระจาย, แพร่กระจายไปทั่ว
  • standards: a level of quality that is normal or acceptable for a particular person or in a particular situation - มาตรฐาน, บรรทัดฐาน
  • sterilise: to kill the bacteria in or on something - ทำให้ปราศจากเชื้อ
  • tissue: any of the distinct types of material of which animals or plants are made, consisting of specialized cells and their products - เนื้อเยื้อ
  • typically: usually; normally - อย่างเป็นแบบฉบับ
  • warn: to make someone aware of a possible problem or danger - เตือน
  • wound: an injury in which your skin or flesh is damaged - บาดแผล

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