Cheap and easy travel has shrunk the globe and opened up all sorts of
exciting holiday destinations. But the ability to reach almost any point
on the planet in little more than a day can bring some tricky problems
too, not least for your health.
So if you want to return rested rather than wrecked, plan well in
advance. Whether you're heading for Bognor Regis or Baluchistan, a little
preparation can reduce the stress of being away from home and help you
avoid most holiday health disasters.
First, do some research into the area to find out what the local health
risks are and where you can turn for help. For example, is the water safe
to drink? Are there infections to watch out for or other hazards such as
poisonous insects? Can your hotel find you a doctor if you need one ?
Check what vaccinations you will need.
Your GPs surgery can direct you to the local travel medicine clinic
which will have the most up-to-date information, including advice
concerning the risk of malaria. Don't leave the country without travel
insurance. The price of medical treatment abroad can be a very unpleasant
shock. Fortunately the UK has reciprocal health arrangements with other
European countries and Switzerland.
To make the most of these, you will need a European Health Insurance
Card (EHIC), which has replaced the old E111 form. You can apply for one
online or through the Post Office.
However you may need insurance too, for example to get you back home if
you are ill. Make sure you are as fit as possible before you travel,
especially if you are heading to remote regions. Now is the time to get
nagging problems, such as a toothache, sorted out and top up your immunity
with boosters such as zinc and vitamin C supplements.
When I travel, I'm always tempted to pack half the pharmacy but some
All your regular medicines, carefully labelled.
A supply of first-aid items such as wound dressings, antiseptic creams,
anti-histamine creams for insect bites and an elastic bandage for sprains.
Medicines for diarrhoea.
Insect repellents (and mosquito net in malaria areas).
Travel sickness treatments.
For very remote locations, you may want to take an emergency kit, with
syringes, needles, sutures and even an intravenous fluid set.
Finally keep with your passport a printed list of any regular
medication you take in case you lose yours or need more.
Another common holiday misery is travellers diarrhoea. Choose food
carefully steaming hot dishes are most likely to be safe. Avoid uncooked
vegetables or salad and choose fruit that you can peel. Drink water from
sealed bottles (fizzy drinks are reliable) and don't have ice. You may
want to pack a supply of pro-biotic supplements. These can help repopulate
the intestines with healthy bacteria and cut down the likelihood and
duration of gastroenteritis.
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