For many people, going on a holiday comes just once a year. So, naturally they want to take every precaution possible to make sure it’s perfect. A pre-holiday trip to the pharmacy to purchase some travel health products is usually a key part of the preparation to travel abroad.
Admittedly, some health conditions are more common in hot climates and less developed countries then they are in the UK. But why are people more prepared to manage self-treatable conditions on holiday then they are in good old blighty?
John Smith, Chief Executive of the PAGB (Proprietary Association of Great Britain) comments,
“When people travel abroad they become much more engaged with their health and think ahead about the conditions they may need to treat to ensure they have the right medicines to hand. Some people may do this because they like to have a particular brand of medicine to treat a condition, which they might not be able to get abroad. But for the majority it’s probably the fear of the unknown.
“However, people are less likely to purchase these products when holidaying at home/in the UK because they know that they have immediate access to a pharmacist or other healthcare professional should they become unwell. Something that is not as freely available abroad or more difficult where there is a language barrier. With over 285 million GP consultations for self-treatable conditions alone over the last five years, it’s important that people start adopting these healthy holiday habits back at home.
“As we all know, the great British weather is unpredictable and can bring with it some unfortunate, and sometimes unexpected, health conditions, such as hay fever and dehydration. If people know they suffer with a seasonal condition, then they should be speaking to their local pharmacist well in advance of the summer to make sure they have the right medication should any symptoms start to appear.”
So what health products should we be packing this summer if we’re holidaying at home or away?
Pharmacist Steve Riley offers his advice,
“When travelling abroad for the first time, heading to an exotic location or holidaying in the UK, a pharmacist is well placed and highly trained to recommend the appropriate non-prescription medicines and other travel products that can be taken to treat conditions such as headaches, diarrhoea and insect bites. They can also offer advice on the additional medications, or vaccinations, people may need.
“If you’re travelling to more exotic parts of the world, then you may also need vaccinations to protect against various diseases such as typhoid and hepatitis- up to 8 weeks before you travel. Your local pharmacist and websites such as The National Travel Network Centre can offer advice on the necessary jabs you may need to get in advance of your trip.”
When the sun comes out, so do the barbecues! It’s important that food is cooked properly, particularly meat, and stored at the right temperature. If food is contaminated or under-cooked, diarrhea can be one of the main symptoms of food poisoning.
Many people suffer from diarrhea when travelling abroad. This is commonly due to an infection caused by bacteria or viruses, usually through food or drink. If you are travelling in a country where standards of public hygiene are low, you should avoid consuming things such as tap water, ice cubes, salads and raw or under-cooked seafood, meat and chicken.
What to pack? Anti-diarrhea tablets can help to stop the symptoms of diarrhea. Oral re-hydration solutions are also a good way to replace glucose, essential salts and minerals. This is particularly essential for the young and elderly. If its a hot day/climate, dehydration can occur more easily, especially if you have diarrhea. It is also important to drink plenty of water (bottled if abroad).
Insect bites and stings
In the UK there are many insects and bugs that can bite or sting you including wasps, hornets and ants. Generally, these bites are harmless and just cause itching. But some people may suffer an allergic reaction which can require medical assistance.
If you’re travelling to more far flung places, you may need additional medication to prevent tropical diseases such as malaria, or the West Nile virus. Both of which are transmitted via mosquitoes. Whilst not available on an NHS prescription, antimalarial medication can be purchased from a pharmacy or obtained via a private prescription. Speak to your pharmacist to find out if required and which medication to get.
What to pack – Insect repellents containing DEET can minimise your risk of being bitten or stung. You can get plug in devices for hotel rooms and mosquito nets. It is also advisable to cover up if out when it is dusk to avoid bites. However, if you are bitten then painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with the pain. Antihistamine tablets or creams and steroid creams can help prevent itching, redness and swelling.
Home & Away – This is a common condition that occurs when there’s a conflict between what your eyes see and what your inner ears sense. Symptoms can include dizziness, vomiting and cold sweats when travelling by car, boat or plane.
What to pack? Anti-sickness tablets or medicines taken between 20 minutes and 2 hours before travel (depending upon the chosen medication) often help. There are also acupressure bands available which apply pressure to a point on your wrist to help ease symptoms.
Home & Away – An unexpected heatwave in the UK, or travel to tropical climates, can mean you can sweat more than usual causing your body to lose fluid. Depending how much fluid you have lost, dehydration can be mild or severe. If you’re feeling thirsty or having dark coloured urine, these are both early signs that your body is trying to increase water and decrease water loss.
What to pack? If you feel dehydrated, then it’s important to drink plenty of water. Oral re-hydration solutions can help to replace vital minerals and salts to rebalance your body too.
Home & Away – Damage to the skin can be dangerous and can even cause serious health problems in later life. As soon as you start to feel as if you’re getting burnt, seek a shaded area.
What to pack? Painkillers can help treat soreness, but to prevent it, use a strong sunscreen with a high SPF. Be sure to stay out of the sun during peak times between 11am – 3pm.