Health

For a care­free hol­i­day, arm your­self with a well-stocked first-aid kit and knowl­edge of com­mon ail­ments.

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Look­ing af­ter your health by pack­ing med­i­cal es­sen­tials and tak­ing sen­si­ble pre­cau­tions could make the dif­fer­ence be­tween a bril­liant break and a hol­i­day from hell. Re­search from Bri­tish health sup­ple­ment com­pany Na­ture’s Best sug­gests more than half (54 per cent) of hol­i­day­mak­ers get a tummy bug with di­ar­rhoea and vom­it­ing while they’re away, 33 per cent have had con­sti­pa­tion and a third have suf­fered from itchy and sore prickly heat rashes on hol­i­day.

“You re­ally don’t want health prob­lems ru­in­ing your hol­i­day,” says Dr Im­ran Rafi, chair of clin­i­cal in­no­va­tion and re­search at the UK’s Royal Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers. “It’s im­por­tant to think about pre­ven­tion from the out­set, be­fore you leave, and to take sen­si­ble pre­cau­tions to avoid dis­com­fort and/or ill­ness and sick­ness.”

Here are the typ­i­cal ail­ments you may face on hol­i­day with doc­tors’ top tips on how to avoid them.

ON­THE RUN

“Stom­ach bugs, caus­ing di­ar­rhoea and/or sick­ness, are one of the most com­mon hol­i­day health prob­lems, Dr Rafi says. It’s im­por­tant that pre­cau­tions are taken, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas with poor san­i­ta­tion.

“Peo­ple with low im­mune sys­tems, chil­dren and older adults are par­tic­u­larly at risk through con­tam­i­nated wa­ter and un­safe food, which in­crease the risk of ill­ness,” he adds. “So drink wa­ter that’s been boiled, avoid ice in drinks, and eat freshly pre­pared food that’s served hot, where pos­si­ble.”

Dr Roger Hen­der­son, a fam­ily doc­tor, 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.

“Ad­di­tion­ally, hol­i­day stom­ach bugs can of­ten spread eas­ily in places where hy­giene prac­tices aren’t the stan­dard we’re used to, and com­monly in re­sorts or cruise ships where there are large num­bers of hol­i­day­mak­ers.”

He warns that while di­ar­rhoea is usu­ally thought of as harm­less, 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 than oth­ers. Dr Hen­der­son sug­gests trav­ellers pack oral re­hy­dra­tion sa­chets to help com­bat the ef­fects of di­ar­rhoea if nec­es­sary.

SICK OF TRAV­EL­LING

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

Symp­toms in­clude turn­ing pale, nau­sea and vom­it­ing, loss of ap­petite and dizzi­ness. Some­times peo­ple may ex­pe­ri­ence headaches and feel­ing ex­hausted too. Here are Dr Hen­der­son’s top tips to help avoid travel sick­ness:

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 wrist.

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

“Pre­sen­ta­tion of symp­toms may be de­layed for many months af­ter re­turn­ing back home from a malar­i­aaf­fected coun­try,” warns Dr Rafi, who ad­vises that air con­di­tion­ing, bed nets, in­sect re­pel­lents and stay­ing cov­ered up by wear­ing trousers and long-sleeved cloth­ing may help re­duce the risk.

If you’re not trav­el­ling in a malar­i­arisk zone, it’s still worth be­ing bugaware. It’s es­ti­mated that nearly half (48 per cent) of hol­i­day­mak­ers get bit­ten or stung while away. “There’s no doubt in my mind that some peo­ple seem to be tastier than oth­ers,” Dr Hen­der­son notes.

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 per cent) 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.

More in­for­ma­tion can be found on the UK Na­tional Travel Health Net­work and Cen­tre’s web­site, www.nathnac.org.

BURN­ING PROB­LEM

Most peo­ple are aware of the dam­age too much sun can do to the skin, in­clud­ing can­cer and pre­ma­ture age­ing, yet many ig­nore the warn­ings and end up with painful, un­com­fort­able sun­burn.

The worst pain usu­ally oc­curs six to 48 hours af­ter sun ex­po­sure, and the skin of­ten peels off a few days later.

“Avoid be­ing out­side be­tween 11am and 3pm when the sun is at its strong­est, and al­ways use sun­screen with a min­i­mum skin pro­tec­tion fac­tor (SPF) of at least 15 be­fore go­ing out­side into the sun,” says Dr Hen­der­son.

It’s ad­vis­able to use sun­screen with higher SPF for chil­dren, and adults with nat­u­rally fair skin. Dr Rafi notes that these of­fer longer pro­tec­tion, but they still need to be reap­plied reg­u­larly, par­tic­u­larly af­ter swim­ming.

Pack some af­ter-sun lo­tion or cool­ing gel, should any­body need it.

KEEP THINGSMOVING

The rea­sons for the high rate of con­sti­pa­tion found among pas­sen­gers in­clude a change in time-zones, vari­able eat­ing habits with lack of fi­bre, lack of fluid in hot cli­mates and lack of ex­er­cise, says Dr Rafi.

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 can help (though make sure you wash fruit in bot­tled wa­ter to avoid un­safe tap wa­ter). Lax­a­tives may be avail­able over the counter if the prob­lem gets worse.

PRICKLY HEAT

Prickly heat is usu­ally caused by blocked sweat glands, with the ex­ces­sive sweat un­der the skin caus­ing a lo­cal skin re­ac­tion that ap­pears as red, itchy, raised spots, says Dr Rafi. To avoid it, he ad­vises hol­i­day­mak­ers wear loose cot­ton cloth­ing and re­duce ex­po­sure to heat. Those prone to the rash may find steroid creams, such as hy­dro­cor­ti­sone, help­ful. Sooth­ing bar­rier creams, and an­ti­his­tamine tablets also help.

AWELL-STOCKED KIT

So what should your first-aid travel kit in­clude? Dr Hen­der­son rec­om­mends pack­ing plas­ters, re­hy­dra­tion sa­chets, parac­eta­mol, an­ti­his­tamines, antacids, anti-di­ar­rhoeals, an­ti­sep­tic, an­ti­in­flam­ma­tory creams and anti-nau­sea tablets.

Try these sug­ges­tions from ex­pe­ri­enced trav­ellers, too… PACK: Hol­land and Bar­rett Ginger Root Cap­sules, Dh60 for 100 cap­sules of 550mg WHY? This is a nat­u­ral rem­edy to ease travel sick­ness. PACK: Fenis­til Gel, Dh18.50 for 30g, Boots WHY? This cream pro­vides in­stant sooth­ing relief and helps re­duce in­flam­ma­tion PACK: Ne­or­lyte ORS sa­chets, Dh17 for 10 sa­chets, Boots WHY? These handy sa­chets re­place lost flu­ids and help com­bat loose stools, and are suit­able for chil­dren aged one up­wards and adults. PACK: Hol­land and Bar­rett Aloe Vera Gel, Dh49 for 200ml WHY? Lovely and cool­ing, quick and easy relief for sun­burn and heat rash – need we say more?

Avoid be­ing in the sun be­tween 11am and 3pm, doc­tors ad­vise

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