How to avoid holiday sickness

Health tips for your holiday

You spend months planning the perfect holiday, and even longer waiting for it to come around.

So the one thing you don't want is to get struck down with an illness abroad. But when it comes to your health and travel, you don't have to accept that getting sick is unavoidable.

healthy woman stretching her muscles on the beach

Health tips for travelling

Healthy flying tips
Turbulence isn't the only thing that can make you queasy on the flight. Here's how to look after yourself and get your holiday off to a flying start.

  • Get up and move around – Regular movement on any journey where you're sitting for long periods of time will help prevent blood clots, and will generally stop you from feeling lethargic.
  • Wash your hands – Not just after going to the bathroom, washing your hands regularly will help remove any germs you may pick up. Sharing a confined space with other passengers can increase the risk of getting ill. A regular trip to the bathroom will both stretch your legs and sanitise your hands.
  • Stay hydrated – Drinking alcohol before and during your flight can dehydrate you, leaving you feeling run down. Plenty of water and eating fresh fruit will keep you feeling your best.

These tips can help reduce your risk of blood clots and make jet lag less severe.

Suntan good, sunstroke bad
Heat exhaustion caused by excessive exposure to the sun will ruin your holiday and leave you feeling unwell. To avoid it, keep hydrated, wear a hat and seek shade.

Here are the symptoms of heat exhaustion:

  • Persistent headache
  • Muscle cramps and feeling weak
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Fast breathing
  • Pale, clammy skin

How to treat heat exhaustion:

  • Get inside, or find some shade
  • Rehydrate yourself with cold drinks
  • Take a cool bath or shower
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Avoid any exercise and relax as much as possible

If not treated, heat exhaustion can turn into the more serious heatstroke or sunstroke, which requires immediate treatment by the emergency services. It's a good idea to stay out of the sun when it's hottest, so stay in the shade between 12pm and 3pm.

Food and water abroad

One of the exciting things about exploring a new country is immersing yourself in the local culture, and in particular trying new food. But there are a few things to watch out for abroad.

Foods to avoid
In countries where food hygiene might be less stringent than in the UK, it's best to avoid:

  • Salads, including lettuce as these might've been washed in unclean water.
  • Raw fruit and vegetables.
  • Cooked food which has been left outdoors or in the sun.
  • Raw or undercooked seafood.
  • Food from street vendors (unless you can how it's prepared and what's in it).

It's also important to ask about ingredients used – there may be traces of nuts or other allergens. If you can't verify what's in a dish, don't eat it.

Don't tap in to the tap water
There's a long list of countries where it's recommended not to drink tap water. Even using it to brush your teeth could lead to an upset stomach. You should also avoid having ice in your drinks - if the water's untreated, it could melt into your drink and make you poorly.

Where the tap water isn't safe, use bottled, filtered or boiled water instead.

You could use disinfectants such as iodine and chlorine, available in pharmacies or travel shops. These kill bacteria and viruses, though some parasites aren't reliably killed. Combining these disinfectants with a specialist filter bought from a travel shop should be effective.

I got sick, can I claim on my insurance?

You'll need to prove that you took all the necessary precautions before visiting areas of the world which could expose you to unfamiliar illnesses.

So if you contract an illness which you were supposed to have jabs for before flying, your insurance provider won't cover you for any treatment.

For any other illnesses, including a pre-existing medical condition, contact your insurance provider as soon as you can after seeking medical attention. Many insurers will cover costs up to a certain amount towards accommodation if you have to stay longer than expected.

What if I got food poisoning from my hotel?
If you're taken ill, it's vital that you seek medical advice and get evidence from a medical professional to send to your tour operator or the hotel management. They have a duty of care to make sure that you get any necessary medical attention.

If you're on holiday in Europe, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) could cover a large portion of any costs.

We recommend that you tell your your hotel or travel company about your illness, as it's proof for your insurer if you need to file a claim.

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