Holiday health

Caroline Cassidy

The secret to the perfect holiday is preparation. A bit of research before you go will help you avoid illnesses while you're away so you can have a safe and healthy holiday. Learn about your destination and understand the local culture. All too often travellers get into trouble through lack of knowledge.

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Recent research has revealed that more than two thirds of people fall ill on holiday. This means a lot of wasted time and money as well as a whole lot of discomfort. If you want to avoid being confined to quarters on your break take a look at our top holiday health tips.

One of your priorities should be to speak with your doctor. Arrange a visit at least one month before your trip as some vaccinations need several weeks to take effect. In any case, you should always get vaccinated, even if you are running short of time. Your GP can also advise you about malaria tablets and any high-risk foods to avoid.

Be prepared for all eventualities. Pack a range of basic drugs such as paracetamol, hay fever tablets, laxatives and diarrhoea tablets. Make sure you take a stock of any prescription drugs as well, certainly enough to see you through the holiday.

Suffering some kind of stomach upset is fairly common when travelling abroad. There are many ways to avoid this: don't eat undercooked food, avoid ice in drinks and drink lots of bottled water. It's an idea to take some electrolyte powders for children with the runs. Try sticking to foods you are used to, don't pile your plate up with lots unusual goodies. Eating shellfish with a gallon of the local firewater is likely to cause you problems - so ease your way in.

Taking out insurance cover will protect you against costly medical bills if you get ill while you are away. If you are going to the EU you need to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card replaced the E111 in 2006. The EHIC entitles the holder to medical treatment within the country they are in and the service provided should be the same as that received by a person covered by the country's 'insured' medical scheme.

Pack a first aid kit when you travel. This is especially important if you are taking an active holiday. Your items should include a sterile pack containing needles and syringes and extra medical items such as antibiotics, strong pain killers and other emergency treatments. Also include water purification tablets, a sun-block and some insect repellent.

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DTV) can occur when you are immobile for extended periods of time. So take regular breaks and keep mobile when you are travelling. Avoid alcohol and greasy foods so you don't end up feeling dehydrated or bloated.

It's a good idea to stick to bottled water. Avoid salads, ice and raw foods. Boil water if bottled is unavailable.

Staying safe in the sun will help protect you against skin cancer and painful sunburn that could ruin your holiday. Wear clothes that cover your skin, a hat and factor 30 sunscreen. Avoid sunbathing between 11am and 3pm. Apply waterproof sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB every 2 hours.

Mosquito bites can be dangerous. Insects carry all sorts of diseases so cover up, especially near water and in the evening. Choose a good repellent with a high percentage of anti-mosquito agents.

Take a Vitamin B1 supplement as it deters midges by omitting a smell they don't like. Start taking it a couple of months before travel.

Practice safe sex at all times so you won't come home with an STD. Pack condoms and consider getting vaccinated against Hepatitis B before you go.