Dr Doug Wright, Aviva’s Medical Director, on holiday bugs and ailments... and how to avoid them
Imagine it’s day two or day three of your holiday. You’ve settled into the accommodation, checked out the pool and the beach, maybe found a couple of bars or restaurants you like. So, where’s the first place you’re likely to be visiting today?
One place is surprisingly – and regrettably – popular: it might be called the farmacia, the pharmacie, the drug store or even the φαρμακείο (as they say in Faliraki).
The name varies with the destination, but the reason’s usually the same: holiday illnesses and ailments which you didn’t come equipped to handle. Many of us regularly make the local pharmacy an unexpected addition to our holiday itineraries – often accompanied by language difficulties or simple confusion over differing brand names, tablet strengths or uncertainty over what can or cannot be obtained without a prescription.
Sometimes, of course, a visit to a medical centre or a pharmacy is unavoidable. But it’s worth packing a simple medical kit before you go, to try to avoid spending your precious holiday time in a queue at the chemist’s, or pondering some unfamiliar potion you’ve just spent 20€ on.
We’ve put together a 7-point checklist for you:
1. If you’re taking routine prescription medications – e.g. for blood pressure or diabetes – make sure you pack enough to last the full duration of your holiday.
2. Think about medicines you need occasionally at home... painkillers or indigestion remedies for instance. Colds and flu might be thousands of miles from your thoughts, but it’s easy to pick up a bug on the plane. So come prepared for that, too.
3. Consider any potential issues that you’re more likely to encounter in warmer climes. Insect repellent and bite creams are likely to come in handy as well as the more obvious sunscreen and sunblock. Antihistamines can also save you from scratching yourself to pieces if you have a reaction to a bite or sting.
4. Different types of holiday may have their own specific requirements. If you’re going to be particularly active, or playing some sport, rubbing-in medication for muscle aches and pains can come in handy. City sight-seeing can lead to corns and calluses, so think about packing protective plasters, foam wedges or rehydration creams for thickened skin. Painful feet spoil holidays!
5. Known by an imaginative variety of colourful names, traveller’s diarrhoea is a sad fact of life in many hot countries. It’s worth packing some anti-diarrhoeal agents such as loperamide (Imodium) – but remember, these medications treat symptoms rather than cure their cause. Bear in mind that they shouldn’t be taken if there’s any blood in the diarrhoea (instead you should seek medical advice). If you do fall victim, rehydration is important – heavily diluted fruit juices (using clean water, of course!) and oral rehydration salts can help. It’s worth stocking up before you go.
6. Think about how you package your medicines. If you’re packing liquids, gels, and aerosol preparations in your hand luggage, they need to be in containers no larger than 100ml capacity.
7. Remember that some destinations have very specific health requirements – which might include anti-malarial medication as well as immunisations. The NHS website www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk has country-by-country travel information for people travelling abroad. Please bear in mind that some countries have strict regulations on importing certain types of medication . You can find out more about his on the NHS website.
What else to think about
• Whatever medication you’re packing, don’t feel tempted to discard the directions for use along with any outer packaging. Always read the leaflet so you know what you’re taking, what it’s for, and what the correct dosage may be.
• We’ve heard it a million times, but prevention really is better than cure. In particular, you should wash your hands thoroughly and often, wash or peel fruit and avoid raw or undercooked foods. Eating cooked foods while they’re still hot is also a good idea.
• If you suspect anything other than a minor ailments or illness, it’s worth seeking advice as soon as you can. This doesn’t necessarily mean struggling through at the pharmacy or medical centre. Your travel insurance may include a helpline that enables you to discuss your symptoms with a qualified medical professional in your own language... an option which can be very reassuring for the non-linguists among us!
See if you can save on travel insurance
Aviva Travel Insurance includes 24/7 telephone access to an English-speaking doctor or nurse. It’s a worthwhile bit of extra reassurance while you’re on your travels.
Why not find out if you could save money – and enjoy greater peace of mind – with us?
If you’re already with Aviva, login to MyAviva to find out about our discounts for existing customers.
NFPZZA0459 July 2016