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How Healthy Are You?

How To Stay Healthy On Holiday - - by Dr Patricia Macnair

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 essentials include:

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.

Pain killers.

Medicines for diarrhoea.

Sun-protection creams.

Insect repellents (and mosquito net in malaria areas).

Water-sterilisation tablets.

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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