- How dangerous is travelling for my health?
- Do I need any vaccinations before travelling abroad?
- How important is travel insurance?
- Is it worth taking a traveller’s first aid kit with me?
- Can I take medication on my flight?
- What’s the best way to cope with jetlag?
- How dangerous is the sun?
- How can I treat insect bites?
- What if I become ill after my holiday?
- What’s the best way to keep myself safe when on holiday?
There are many health risks you can be exposed to simply by going on holiday. The most common illness that you face is diarrhoea; it’s thought up to 40% of travellers will experience it during a holiday.
Other illnesses you could encounter while travelling include malaria, which is spread by female mosquitoes and can be fatal; hepatitis A, which is caught by eating food or water contaminated by human faeces; hepatitis B, which is spread through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, contaminated needles and poorly sterilised dental and medical equipment; typhoid, which is a potentially fatal disease contracted through contaminated food or water; rabies, which is found in the saliva of infected animals and can be caught after an animal bite; and dengue, which is spread by mosquitoes and is more common in South East Asia, the Caribbean and South America.
Depending on where you are going and how long you are staying, you will need to be vaccinated against a number of diseases that you aren’t routinely vaccinated against in the UK. You should talk to a doctor at least eight weeks before you go away, so you have plenty of time to schedule jabs and start any course of medication.
Usually you can get vaccinations for typhoid, hepatitis A, meningitis C and tetanus, diphtheria and polio for free on the NHS, but this varies according to each practice.
Rabies usually has to be given in three doses, which means it’s likely you’ll have to return to your surgery more than once. Anti-malaria medication usually needs to be taken three weeks before you travel, in order to become fully effective.
Taking out a travel insurance policy is essential. Many people wrongly think that they are covered by their credit card accident cover, home insurance or private health cover. It may seem like another added cost of going abroad, but insurance safeguards you from being hit with massive bills if anything goes wrong. For example, if you need to get back to the UK for treatment and you’re on holiday on the east coast of America, it can cost £35,000 to 45,000 for an air ambulance to repatriate you.
Yes. Regardless of where you’re going on holiday, taking a traveller’s first aid kit is always a good idea. The basics you include various-sized bandages, antibiotic ointment, aspirin and other pain killers, hand sanitiser and anti-diarrhoea medication.
Other contents you should consider taking, depending on personal medical history and where you’re travelling to, include allergy medication such as antihistamines; laxatives to treat constipation; antacids to cure heartburn and stomach acid; condoms to safeguard against STIs, HIV and AIDS; and water purification tablets, for example.
Travellers have been warned that you should place any medication you don’t need during your flight in your luggage. This means you should only take medication onto flights if it’s to be used during the immediate journey, or when waiting to pick up your baggage. Up to 100g of powder/inhalers or tablets can be carried in your hand luggage. If you need to take liquid, cream or gel medication, they can only be up to 100ml. Any larger and they could be taken off you, or you’ll need to taste it to prove it is medication.
Jet lag is cause by travelling across time zones in a way that upsets your natural body clock. Your body clock, also known as circadian rhythm, regulates countless activities including when it’s time to wake up, eat and go to bed. When your circadian rhythm is disrupted, people often feel fatigue, sleepiness, memory lapses, irritability, apathy and differences in appetite, which is known as jet lag.
There are a series of methods that can help reduce the effects of jet lag when you set off. Making sure you are well rested before a flight is perhaps the most important, because a sleep deficit will make jet lag symptoms more pronounced. Some people may find that taking a melatonin-based treatment, such as that which is contained in the Jet Lag Treatment Pack, helps with the symptoms of jet lag.
The following activities can help to reduce the symptoms of jet lag whilst travelling:
- Limiting intake of alcoholic and caffeinated drinks
- Drinking plenty of water
- Taking a nap when you feel sleepy
- Eating small meals frequently and opting for lighter foods
- Walking around the cabin whenever possible
The following suggestions could make it easier for you to adjust to your new time zone once you’ve landed:
- Exposing yourself to daylight, which will help reset your body clock
- Drinking caffeinated drinks, in moderation, during the day
- Avoiding alcoholic or caffeinated drinks a few hours before bed time
- Using relaxation techniques to help you unwind and fall asleep
Many people will be chasing the sunshine during their holiday, but people often don’t understand just how dangerous this can be. Excessive exposure to the sun can result in sunburn, which is a known cause of skin cancer, or heat exhaustion.
Skin can burn within ten minutes of being exposed to the sun, so you should use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (or 30 for children). If you do get sunburnt, you can take painkillers to ease the pain of the burn. You should sponge skin with cool water and apply after sun or calamine lotion to the skin. If you feel unwell, or the skin swells and blisters, you should seek medical help. Remember to stay out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.
Many people suffer from bites when travelling abroad, with the most common being insect bites. Whilst many people will escape with a small, itchy bump on the skin, others will experience a reaction to the bite or worse; they could contract an illness or disease.
The bite could become infected with bacteria. If this happens you could experience a fever and the redness in the skin will spread. You will need antibiotic treatment to cure this. In rare cases an insect bite could cause an acute reaction known as anaphylaxis, which can be fatal. This can be seen in a rapid swelling of the tissues, an itchy red rash, wheezing or difficulty breathing, nausea, abdominal pain and low blood pressure. Anaphylaxis is serious, and you must contact emergency services if you experience it.
Travellers who contract certain illnesses can become ill between six and eight weeks after returning home. Some diseases such as Malaria have a much longer incubation period and can take as long as six months to a year to present symptoms.
If you become ill, you should tell your doctor exactly where you had your holiday and whether you were ill, because it could be the cause of symptoms you’re presenting.
Personal safety is just as important as your health, and as a result you need to make sure you keep yourself and your possessions safe. Tips that can help you include only carrying a minimum amount of cash on you; keeping valuables hidden; dressing sensibly and respecting local traditions and culture; not drinking too much or taking drugs; and telling someone where you’re going and when you expect to come back so that someone knows where you are if you get into trouble.