Most of us don’t worry about our holiday health until we come down with something while we’re away – cue the dash to the local pharmacy to try and explain our symptoms in sign language.A little forward planning can make this panic unnecessary. The most common summer problems – sunburn, upset tummies, travel sickness, insect bites – are all preventable or quickly treatable with a little know-how.
Traveller’s tummy –
Food poisoning can happen when you eat food or drink that are contaminated due to poor sanitation or preparation. There’s also a risk if there are pesticides on fruit and veg, or food is stored at the wrong temperature. Research has found that 60 per cent of visitors to Africa and India get stomach upset, while in medium-risk destination like the Mediterranean and Caribbean, where water quality and food hygiene may be better, 15 to 20 per cent people had problems.
Prevent it – Avoid drinking water from unsealed bottles, ice (which may have been made from unfiltered tap water), and unpeeled fruits. It’s also advisable to steer clear of raw or undercooked meat or fish, as bacteria won’t have been destroyed in the cooking process.
Look after your digestive system with a probiotic supplements that can help maintain your gut health.
Treat it – Most cases of traveller’s tummy last three to five hours. It’s often best to let it take its course, as diarrhoea is your body’s way of getting the bug out of your system.
Keep fluids up by sipping water and consider replacing lost electrolytes with rehydration salts (available at pharmacy).
Travel sickness –
It can happen while you’re in a car, plane, boat or even on a fairground ride. You feel sick because, although sitting still, your body will see and feel that you’re moving, and this confusion can cause nausea.
Prevent it – Choose your seat carefully. You’ll feel less sick in the front or the middle back seat of a car (as you can see the road) or at the front of a coach. Travel sickness tablets will also help, and generally work best if taken at least two hours before the journey.
Treat it – If you feel sick, breathe slowly and deeply. This can help stop nausea. One possible reason for this, according to motion sickness experts is that it’s impossible to vomit and breathe at the same time – so, by focusing on the latter, you avoid the former.
Insect bites –
Each year, 2,000 Brits are bitten by mosquito and contract malaria.But this is tiny compared to the huge numbers who suffer less serious bites that itch like mad.
Prevent it – No one knows exactly why some people get bitten more than others. Experts believe it’s something you excrete in sweet that attracts the insects, but no one has isolated what that is yet. what we do know is how to stop them. The most powerful contain a chemical called DEET – and these should be first choice if you’re travelling to a malarial area (it is not suitable for pregnant women or children).
Treat it – When you react badly to an insect bite, you’re suffering a mild allergic reaction to the saliva the insect insert in the wound. A topical antihistamine or steroid cream is therefore the most effective treatment. Whatever you do, don’t scratch as, although it eases the itching, it can break the skin, leading to infections. Another way to ease discomfort is to use an electronic zapper, which sends a mild electrical pulse through the bite yo relieve the itch.
Foot problems –
The two biggest summer feet problems are blisters and painful condition called plantar fasciitis (PF) – an inflammation of a tendon that runs along the base of the foot. It’s commonly triggered by walking in flat shoes like flip-flops. Symptoms of plantar fasciitis include pain as soon as you get out of bed in the morning or when you stand up after sitting down for a while.
Prevent them – Blisters form when the outer layer of the skin becomes damages where shoes rub. this creates a pocket of clear fluid, which is the body’s way of protecting the skin from further damage. Blisters occur more often if feet are dry cracked or grubby. So make sure you wash and moisturise your feet daily.
Plantar fasciitis is best prevented by not mixing flip-flops and sightseeing. In any very flat shoe, the arch of the foot flattens when you walk, which pulls on the plantar fasciia tendon. In flip-flops, people also walk with feet turned slightly outward, which further aggravates the problem.
Treat them – The worst thing that can happen to a blister is if it bursts or the top scrapes off. A blister plaster over the top will protect against further damage or infection, however.
If you’re suffering from plantar fasciitis, stretching is key. Sit on a chair and put your painful foot on top of your opposite knee – now gently pull back your toes toward your shin. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat 10 times. Do this at least three times a day – particularly before you get out of bed first thing in the morning.
Holiday cystitis –
Although it can affect anyone, it’s generally woman who suffer from cystitis, and holidays can be a prime trigger. Heat, alcohol and air travel can lead to dehydration, which concentrates your urine, making it easier for the bacteria that causes cystitis to flourish. For some women, cystitis is triggered by having sex, which moves bugs into the urinary system. So if you get more frisky on holiday, you could find yourself suffering.
Prevent it – It helps to empty your bladder after sex, and make sure you wipe from front to back after you’ve been to the loo, to stop germs from spreading.
Treat it – As soon as you develop symptoms (ie the constant desire to urinate and burning pain when you do, sometimes accompanied by cloudly or bloody urine), increase your water intake to two litres a day. This can be enough to flush out the bacteria and stop an infection taking hold. Avoid alcohol, as it feeds the bacteria that causes disease. If you don’t feel any relief in 24 to 48 hours, see a doctor, as you may need antibiotics.