Becoming unwell on holiday can quickly turn our favourite time of year into misery. But, with a little caution we can keep ourselves safe from harm.
Below are ten quick tips to help you enjoy the holiday you’ve worked for, from beginning to end.
1. Watch What You Drink
Dehydration can lead to a loss of strength and stamina. It can also affect the kidneys and cause muscle damage and constipation.Water makes up over half of the human body (55% of a female’s body and 60% of a male’s.
It is important to get regular fluid intake, and this becomes especially important the more active we are and when in warm and hot temperatures.
Not all countries, however, have tap water that is safe for human consumption, so it’s important to take caution when travelling.
According to the US Centre For Disease Control and Prevention the following countries have safe to drink tap water:
Africa - none with safe to drink tap water
Asia - Brunei, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Singapore and South Korea have safe to drink tap water
Europe - Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Vatican City have safe to drink tap water
North America - Canada, Greenland, USA have safe to drink tap water
South America - none with safe to drink tap water
Oceania - Australia and New Zealand have safe to drink tap water
In countries where tap water is not safe to drink, use bottled water to brush your teeth and avoid getting water in your mouth in the shower.
Carbonated drinks tend to be safest as the gas suggests that the drink was sealed in a factory.
When drinking from a can, wipe the lip of the can before it comes into contact with your mouth.
Hot coffee and tea should be safe but be careful of additions such as lemons, creams etc.
Pasteurised milk or cream from a chilled sealed bottle is safest to consume. Be careful of jugs which have been sitting out at room temperature as bacteria will be multiplying in this environment. Avoid unpasteurized daily produce, especially if you have weakened immunity.
Alcohol in spirits tends be safe as the high alcohol content will kill germs. Watch for ice and mixers and drinks with lower alcohol content such as wine or beer.
2. Be Careful of Ice, Salads and Soda Fountains
Ice in countries where water is not safe to drink there is a high probability that ice will be made from tap water and its consumption should be avoided.
Make sure the seal on bottled water is secure. Preferably open it yourself. Refilling water bottles with tap water is a money making scam in places.
Salads will be washed in tap water and should be avoided in countries where tap water is not safe to drink.
Soda fountains and juice fountains will also draw on tap water sources and should be avoided.
Stick to cans and bottles which will have undergone a stricter food safety regime, or has been imported.
If fruit has been handled with unknown hands it is best avoided. If you wash it yourself with safe water it will be safe to eat.
3. Wash Your Hands Regularly With Soap
Our hands touch many things which are touched by others, many of whom have poor hygiene standards. We’ve all seen those people who leave toilets without washing their hands. They exist and we have to make sure their mess doesn’t become our mess so to speak!Regular hand washing with soap is one of the most simple and effective ways of avoiding illness.
When we touch our eyes, mouth or nose after touching something which is contaminated we give germs a direct route into our body, potentially passing all types of bacteria and viruses into our system.
Regular, thorough hand washing with soap and water is the only way to properly clean hands.
Personally I like to take a tissue to cover the door handle when leaving bathrooms that others use, and use keys to punch in PIN numbers at ATMs and press traffic light buttons, as most of these public things we touch are touched by thousands daily and are never cleaned.
Making a habit of hand washing immediately on returning home is a good habit to get into.
4. Watch What Your Eat
Heat destroys germs which can cause traveller’s diarrhoea. Food that is freshly cooked and cooked thoroughly will generally be safe so long as it is served “steaming hot”.The following is especially important when travelling in developing countries.
Food that has reduced in temperature from hot to warm is likely to become contaminated again, and should be avoided. Buffets, for this reason, are generally not a good to eat from.
Most food borne bacteria requires moisture in order to grow, so food that is dry is usually safe. Bread, potato chips, and other dry snacks are usually safe.
Factory sealed food, especially that which has undergone extreme heat treating such as canned food is usually safe once it has not been handled by another person.
Raw food is risky.
Raw fruit and vegetables when washed in safe water and peeled yourself can be safe but pre-cut platters should be avoided. Again, you are relying on excellent food hygiene standards and use of safe water for prepared raw fruit or vegetables to be safe to eat. This also applies to fresh salsas.
Raw meat and seafood should be avoided, even that which has been cooked in citrus juice or another acidic liquid. Raw meat and seafood contains germs that could make you ill.
Street vendors will not adhere to a code of practice for food hygiene and their food may be a risky eat. If the food is freshly cooked, steaming hot and eaten immediately it may be safe.
5. Don’t Be Overly Adventurous On Your Tummy
Too much newness of ingredients, spices, meats, and vegetables can tip the system over and create an upset tummy.Our bodies can only cope with so many new things being introduced at once. When travelling it pays to be a little boring some of the time by eating foods which we are used to.
So go eat a pizza or pasta the odd time and don’t feel guilty that you’re not availing of all the exotic options every time you eat.
Your system needs a rest too.
6. Keep Cool and Don’t Overdo The Sun
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are not exactly the ingredients of a perfect holiday.
I am not a medical professional so this section is kindly reproduced from the experts at NHS website and inverted commas are used to indicate direct quotes
According to the NHS signs of heat exhaustion include:
- “tiredness and weakness
- feeling faint or dizzy
- a decrease in blood pressure
- a headache
- muscle cramps
- feeling and being sick
- heavy sweating
- intense thirst
- a fast pulse
- urinating less often and having much darker urine than usual”
If you notice someone has signs of heat exhaustion, you should:
“get them to lie down in a cool place – such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade
remove any unnecessary clothing to expose as much of their skin as possible
cool their skin –use whatever you have available, such as a cool, wet sponge or flannel, cold packs around the neck and armpits, or wrap them in a cool, wet sheet
fan their skin while it's moist – this will help the water to evaporate, which will help their skin cool down
get them to drink fluids – this should ideally be water, fruit juice or a rehydration drink, such as a sports drink
Stay with the person until they're feeling better. Most people should start to recover within 30 minutes.”
“If the person is unconscious, you should follow the steps above and place the person in the recovery position until help arrives (see below). If they have a seizure, move nearby objects out of the way to prevent injury.”
“Severe heat exhaustion and heatstroke requires hospital treatment.”
“You should call 999 for an ambulance if:
the person doesn't respond to the above treatment within 30 minutes
the person has severe symptoms, such as a loss of consciousness, confusion or seizures
Continue with the treatment outlined above until the ambulance arrives.”
To avoid sunburn, stay out of the sun in the middle of the day, and use sunscreen.
7. Take Medications
Plan your medications and ensure you have enough for your entire trip and a little more in case of delays.
Keep your medications with you in your hand luggage. Do not pack your medications in your suitcase in case your suitcase gets lost.
If you are an EU resident travelling in another EU country or Switzerland apply for an EHIC card to get medical care at the rate of a resident of the country you’re visiting, should you need it.
Travel insurance is a small but valuable holiday purchase. When buying it aim for cover that has the highest possible / unlimited medical cover.
Although not technically medications, use mosquito repellant especially around dusk to avoid bites.
Deet spray is very effective as a mosquitos repellent.
8. Watch Where You Swim
You would be surprised (or perhaps unsurprised) how many people urinate in swimming pools.
Chlorinated pools are notable for their smell. A good smell of chlorine means the pool is more likely to be safe.
If a pool is very busy the probability of people urinating in it increases.
Chlorine kills germs but it takes a little time to work. The safest time to swim may then be first thing in the morning or when the pool has had no swimmers for a few hours.
When it comes to the sea it pays to do your research to find out if the water is clean as it is common for sewage to be pumped into seas.
In developing countries dangerous chemical waste is often pumped into rivers and seas.
9. Research Your Destination
Researching your destination helps you make informed choices about staying well and protecting your health.
There are few places in the world that others won’t have visited before you and there is likely to be a wealth of information available about avoiding illness in your destination.
10. Get Vaccinated
Check your destination for any vaccinations which you may need and give yourself plenty of time to get these done.
Hopefully this article has given you useful information to help you stay well on your next holiday.
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Have we missed something?
Please add your tips for staying well on holiday by leaving a comment below.