Travel Health

There are few things that put such a downer on a trip as falling ill on holiday. Serious problems are obviously very traumatic, but even minor illnesses seem much worse when you are miles from home. In this blog we discuss some of the more common travel ailments and what to do about them.

Sunstroke/sunburn
This is more likely to occur during the first couple of days of your trip, where, due to the sheer novelty of seeing sun, you overdo it and feel lousy for the next few days.
Young children especially should be kept out of the sun as much as possible as it doesn’t take much to make them very ill. Wear a hat as much as possible, drink plenty and avoid the sun when it reaches its peak between 12-4pm; you will notice the locals probably have a siesta about then, so follow their lead!

Heat exhaustion symptoms include feeling faint, muscle spasms and nausea. It is very important to replace lost fluids and salt. Sip water and eat something salty like a packet of crisps to rehydrate. If left untreated, heatstroke may develop which is more serious – if the person’s condition deteriorates or they appear confused, have breathing difficulties or fits then seek urgent medical attention.
Sunburn should be treated with moisturiser and cool water, and bear in mind that the only safe tan comes out of a bottle!

Stomach upsets
Traveller’s tummy, Delhi Belly…I’m sure you can think of some other names for holiday stomach upsets.

Drinking water is a very common cause – even in countries where the water is considered safe to drink it might not be what you’re used to so use bottled water if you are worried (in safe countries you could mix the bottled water with local water, decreasing the quantity of bottled water over time). If you plan to only use bottled water, check the seals on the bottles haven’t been tampered with and bear in mind other places that you may ingest local water – ice in drinks and when cleaning your teeth to name but two.

Food poisoning abroad is very common and can range from a minor upset to severe gastroenteritis needing hospital treatment. Food should either be piping hot or properly chilled to prevent the spread of bacteria. Peel raw fruit and vegetables or wash them thoroughly and look out for questionable hygiene practices such as raw and cooked meats stored close together.

If you are unlucky enough to be affected, drink plenty of water and eat small amounts of bland food until symptoms subside. It is worth taking Imodium with you on your trip as having to ask for local substitutes isn’t always easy!

Tropical diseases
Apart from an amazing travel experience, some countries are unfortunately associated with more serious illnesses. Before you go, check whether you need any jabs or medicines for your holiday bearing in mind that some vaccines need to be given in multiple doses spaced over a certain amount of time. You may also need to take anti-malarial tablets (even if you are visiting a malarial zone for a stopover) and if you are visiting more remote areas of some countries you may need additional vaccinations.

Even if you have booked a late deal or need to travel unexpectedly, see your doctor as some protection may be better than none. If you have travelled outside Europe, North America or Australia/New Zealand and you feel unwell shortly after returning home, tell your doctor or pharmacist where you have been.

An excellent resource for travel health information is provided by NHS Direct. Other useful sites for travel health are www.travelhealth.co.uk, www.travelhealthzone.com and the Department of Health’s website at www.dh.gov.uk

Perhaps the most important reason to take out travel insurance is to provide cover for emergency medical expenses abroad – remember the bills can run into many thousands of pounds, especially in places such as the United States and Spain. 24/7 travel insurance offers cover for medical and emergency expenses not exceeding £5m on their “Standard” single-trip policies, and premiums start from under a fiver- a small price to pay for peace of mind on your holiday.

** Premium £4.38 includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on an individual traveller aged under 55 taking out a “Standard” Single Trip policy for 3 days in Europe excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.