Health: Preparation is the key to holiday happiness

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When packing for a perfect getaway, make sure you’re prepared for potential health problems. Juliette Bains reports.

Holidaymakers in Yorkshire are being urged to plan ahead to help guarantee a healthy and happy getaway.

Medicx Pharmacy in Ossett is advising travellers that although holiday health may be the last thing on your mind when packing, preparing medical supplies before you set off will save time and money.

Looking after your health, both 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.

Statistics show that people are 100 times more likely to catch a cold on a plane, so staying hydrated and keeping hands clean is essential when travelling.

And one in 30 people become ill as soon as they stop working and try to relax on holiday.

Commonly known as leisure sickness, the body gives in to a build-up of stress, which lowers immunity and makes people more susceptible to bugs or infections.

Millions of people also suffer from traveller’s tummy every year, with unfamiliar food, less-than-ideal hygiene and a change of routine all contributing to the problem.

Laura White, pharmacy manager, said: “Once we’re on holiday we relax and all the stress finally catches up.

“This is exacerbated by heat, heavy lunches, alcohol and time differences.

“Falling ill can ruin your holiday, so it’s important to make preparations as hassle free as possible to lighten the pressure before you get to the airport.

“If you take regular prescription medicines, check you have enough before going away to avoid any last-minute panics.

“Although packing a first aid kit might be low down on your to-do list, prevention really is better than cure.

“Sunburn, sunstroke, insect bites, food poisoning and accidents ruin many holidays, but also are very much avoidable.”

The pharmacy is urging holidaygoers to prepare a travel kit of health essentials, including sun cream, insect repellent, painkillers, anti-diarrhoea and rehydration tablets, antihistamines, antiseptic cream, hand wash gel, plasters and dressings.

Dr Imran Rafi, chair of clinical innovation and research at the Royal College of GPs, said: “You really don’t want health problems ruining your holiday.

“It’s important to think about prevention from the outset, before you go on holiday, and to take sensible precautions to avoid discomfort and/or illness and sickness.”

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 said.

“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 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.

“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 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.

Travel or motion sickness can also be an issue on holiday, and is caused by a temporary disturbance of the balance and equilibrium system based deep in the inner ear.

Symptoms include turning pale, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and dizziness.

Dr Henderson recommends not eating before travelling, avoiding fizzy drinks, sitting in the middle of the boat or aircraft and using anti-sickness tablets.

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