The information on this page is designed to help you and your family have a healthy and safe holiday, whilst enjoying your time away from home.
Before you travel, it is important to check the health requirements of your destination. The NHS Choices website provides a lot of practical information for travellers such as getting treatment around the world, beach safety, preventing DVT and advice for travellers with illnesses. Click here to visit the site.
The foreign and commonwealth office website can provide information about services for Britons overseas, what to do if things go wrong and general tips and advice for travellers. Click here to visit the site.
You should prepare early for any travel vaccinations or malarial tablets that you may require. Your GP surgery will be able to offer advice about your immunisations. Some of these cannot be given at the same time and some take a while to be effective - e.g. Immunisation against Hepatitis B can take up to 6 months to give full protection. Some immunisations are free under the NHS but there may be a charge for others. Visit the NHS Choices website for more details.
Make sure that you arrange adequate health insurance for your trip. If you are travelling in the European union, obatin a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - These have replaced the paper E111 form. You can pick up an application form from your local post office or apply online here. You will need to show your card if you require medical treatment in european countries that have reciprocal emergency health care agreements. For futher details visit the NHS choices website.
Remember to tell your travel insurance company about any pre existing medical condition, otherwise you may not be covered by the policy you buy.
Always ensure you have enough of any prescription medications, and carry these in a correctly labelled container as issued by the pharmacist. Some medicines available over the counter in the UK may be controlled in other countries, and vice- versa. It is useful to keep a written record of any medical condition affecting you and the proper names of any medication you are taking. Make sure you pack a few essential items such as:
- Travel sickness tablets
- Paracetamol (including paracetamol/ibuprofen syrup for children)
- Sunscreen - SPF15 or higher
- Sunburn treatment e.g Calamine
- Plasters and antiseptic wipes
- Oral rehydration solution (anti- diarrhoeal)
- Condoms/other contraceptives
- Indegestion remedy
- Anti-malarial tablets (Check with your pharmacist about whether you might need these)
- Insect repellent
- Water purification tablets
- European Health Insurance Card
Any type of transport can cause travel sickness, and children are particularly susceptible.
To minimise travel sickness:
- Avoid alcohol or rich, heavy meals before travelling
- Try to avoid additional movement where possible
- In a car, avoid reading or playing games that mean you have to look down and try to ensure that you have a clear view of the road. Make sure the car is well ventilated.
- On a ship, try to get as much fresh air as possible but if you have to stay inside, try to sit in the middle of the ship on a lower deck where there will be less sway.
- Ginger (as a tea or biscuit) or peppermint ( as a tea or sucked) can help to alleviate travel sickness
- Obtain travel sickness pills from your pharmacist before you go
Prolonged immobility on long journeys, whether by plane, train or car can lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in the leg. To avoid DVT, move your feet around and get up and walk around if possible. Avoid dehydration by drinking non- alcoholic drinks regularly.
If you have a family history of clotting conditions, have had major surgery, especially a hip or knee replacement in the last 3 months, suffer from heart disease, cancer or have ever had a stroke you may be at increased risk. Ask your Doctor for advice.
Most people will travel by car, taxi or motorcycle at some stage while abroad, and road traffic accidents are one of the main causes of injury and death in world travellers. When hiring a car or motorcycle abroad, take a few simple precautions:
- Carefully consider the insurance agreement
- Hire vehicles with seat belts
- Always wear your seat belt
- Do not drive when tired, jet lagged or after drinking alcohol
- Do not drive on unlit roads at night in developing countries
- Do not ride a motorcycle, moped, scooter or cycle without wearing a safety helmet.
Wherever you are in the world, be careful of what you eat and drink. Food and water can be contaminated in a number of ways, including swimming pools, lakes, rivers and the sea – so try not to swallow water when you are bathing.
If you have any doubts about water available for drinking, washing food, or cleaning your teeth, boil it, sterilise it with disinfectant tablets or use bottled water in sealed containers. Remember:
“Boil it, cook it, peel it or forget it!”
Try not to over indulge as you relax on holiday. Illness and injury can occur because people consume larger amounts of alcohol than they would normally do.
The sun should be enjoyed but over exposure can cause sunburn, leading to an increased risk of skin cancer and premature ageing. Some simple steps to staying safe in the sun are:
- SLIP on a shirt or blouse
- SLAP on a wide brimmed hat
- SLOP on sunscreen (of at least SPF 15)
Avoid the sun between the hours of 11:00 – 15:00, making sure that you have at least 2 hours in the shade around midday.
If you are sexually active and there is a chance you might have sex on holiday, reduce the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease by taking condoms with you. If you need to buy condoms abroad, check that they have the European “CE” logo on them or have the new international standard – ISO 4074:2002
Insect bites and stings can be irritating, but in some parts of the world they can also carry serious illnesses. Guard against bites by:
- Wearing long sleeved shirts and trousers, particularly after dusk.
- Having a screen, net or electronic vaporiser in your room
- Using an insect repellent appropriate to the country you are visiting – ask your pharmacist for advice
- Using a bite or sting relief after being bitten