Healthy holidays

Looking after your health, by packing medical essentials and taking sensible precautions to avoid falling ill while you’re away, could make all the difference between a brilliant break and a holiday from hell.

Common ailments and treatments include:

TUMMY TROUBLE: Stomach bugs, causing diarrhoea and/or sickness, are one of the most common holiday health problems. 

Dr Roger Henderson, a GP, says diarrhoea is typically caused by irritation of the gut or viral and bacterial infections, frequently picked up from food or drinks consumed on holiday.

He warns that while diarrhoea is usually thought of as a mild condition, it can quickly become serious due to dehydration. Children, teens and the elderly are particularly at risk, as loss of fluids and salts affects them more quickly.

Dr Henderson suggests travellers pack oral rehydration sachets to help combat the effects of diarrhoea if necessary.

CONSTIPATION: A third of people are thought to suffer from constipation on holiday, and it can be upsetting and uncomfortable. 

A simple trick is to make sure you’re drinking more water when you’re in warmer climates, to make up for body fluids lost through sweating. Also, eating high-fibre foods including fruit, vegetables and cereals during your trip can help (though make sure you wash fruit in bottled water if you’re in an area with unsafe tap water).

Laxatives may be available over the counter if the problem is particularly bad.

SICK OF TRAVELLING: Travel or motion sickness is a temporary disturbance of the balance and equilibrium system based deep in the inner ear, explains Dr Henderson, due to the repetitive, rhythmical movements associated with being on an aeroplane or in a boat or car.

Here are his top tip to help avoid the problem:

:: Don’t eat before travelling, and avoid fizzy drinks.

:: Don’t read during the journey.

:: Try to focus on a fixed object in the distance, such as the horizon.

:: Get some fresh air, and avoid smoke.

:: Sit in the middle of the boat or aircraft where the motion is felt least.

:: Anti-sickness tablets taken an hour before travel often help, but may cause drowsiness.

:: Natural treatments include ginger, and wearing acupressure bands on the wrists.

ONCE BITTEN: Generally, insect bites are merely an itchy annoyance, but sometimes they can cause serious illnesses. Mosquito bites, for instance, can cause yellow fever (for which pre-holiday vaccinations are available) or malaria (anti-malarial tablets can be taken before and during travel). 

Contact your GP around eight weeks before travelling to check whether vaccinations or other preventive measures are needed for the country you’re going to.

Bites can be treated by washing the affected area with soap and water and then applying a cold compress to reduce swelling. Try not to scratch the bite, as this can lead to infection.

If the bite’s painful, paracetamol or ibuprofen may help, or use a spray or cream that contains local anaesthetic, antihistamine or mild hydrocortisone (1%) to help prevent itching and swelling.

If a person has an allergic reaction to a bite, the area may become very inflamed and swelling may spread. Seek medical advice if concerned and take an antihistamine tablet if necessary.


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