January travel - holiday health hazards

Posted on: 02 January 2019 by 50connect editorial

'Travel broadens the mind and loosens the bowels' - besides being a favourite quip of gastroenterologists, this statement represents the unfortunate truth for substantial numbers of travellers at home and abroad.

holiday health hazards

Holidays conjure up thoughts of stress-free days and fun-filled nights: refreshing dips in clear waters, bare-foot strolls along fine sands and hours filled consuming exotic food and drink.

However, a holiday heaven can turn into a health hell if you are unlucky enough to become ill: even a relatively minor self-limiting illness can ruin your holiday time.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain says pharmacists are in a prime position to give professional holiday healthcare advice. Try this quiz to find out how much you know about holiday health matters and what a pharmacist would recommend.

Quiz

  1. True or false? Travel sickness is associated with the food you eat before travelling? Therefore, you should try to refrain from eating before a journey if you suffer from this condition.
     
  2. True or false? If you swim a lot whilst on holiday you are less likely to get sunburnt as the water will protect you.
     
  3. What are your chances of suffering from diarrhoea whilst abroad? 10%, 40%, 100%.
     
  4. Holiday diarrhoea isn't confined to those travelling abroad. How can it be caused on holidays at home?

 

Answers

Question 1

False. Travel sickness is caused by a disruption of the balance mechanism of the inner ear owing to unfamiliar movement and confusion between what the eye sees and the inner ear feels.

Pharmacist's advice

If you're prone to travel sickness don't eat a heavy meal before setting off. Eating small meals is better than travelling on an empty stomach.

There is a range of travel sickness remedies available from pharmacies, but buy them in plenty of time as you may need to take them the night before a long journey - they are of little use once the symptoms have started.

It is also widely thought that nausea can be reduced by applying pressure with the thumb to the inner wrist and breathing deeply. Fresh air also helps, so travel on the deck of a boat and open car windows. Don't read in a car.

Question 2

False. Ultra Violet Rays (UVR) usually penetrate the skin surface better when it is wet or oily.

Pharmacist's advice

To prepare for a holiday ask your pharmacist for a high protection sun-barrier cream that suits your skin. Buy a preparation that has good protection against rays that can burn you (UVB) and those that age the skin (UVA). Also ensure the barrier you choose is water resistant if you intend to swim.

The skin should be gradually exposed to the sun, beginning with no more than twenty minutes a day. Apply sun protection cream at least 20 minutes before going into the sun and reapply every hour or so, especially after swimming or exercise.

Stay out of the mid-day sun as this is when UVR rays are at their most intense. And if you can bear not to have a tan, cover up with loose clothes and a hat!

At the end of each day use a moisturiser to help minimise skin dryness and irritation.

Question 3

No fewer than 40 per cent of all international travellers suffer from diarrhoea abroad. Travellers' diarrhoea is not merely a trivial inconvenience: some 30 per cent of sufferers are confined to bed and a further 40 per cent are forced to change their itinerary.

Pharmacist's advice

Although diarrhoea usually resolves itself, the loss of water and salts can cause dehydration, especially in children and the elderly. As diarrhoea is such a prevalent holiday problem, at home and abroad, take a rehydration treatment with you to help the body maintain a balance of water and salts.

Preparations containing loperamide can be useful for relieving the symptoms of diarrhoea, especially if you are travelling - ask your pharmacist for advice on the best treatment for you.

If abroad, don't eat raw foods or salads unless you know they have been prepared in pure water and always peel fruit before you eat it. If your symptoms persist for more than five days you should see a doctor.

Question 4

Diarrhoea can be caused by eating any food contaminated with bacteria such E.coli or salmonella. Swimming in polluted waters can also cause stomach problems.

Pharmacist's advice

At home, problems can be avoided by storing cooked and raw meat separately in the fridge and using separate chopping boards. Always cook food thoroughly, especially on barbecues and open fires. Don't leave food out of the fridge for too long on a warm day and try to leave food, especially shellfish, in the fridge until you are ready to eat or cook it.

When swimming on the coast or inland, try not to immerse yourself completely in the water and never swallow any water.

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