Skyscanner takes a look at how you can protect yourself before you go, whilst you are there, and when you return.
20 million or so Britons go abroad every year and around 7 million will get ill at some point whilst away. For most, it will be something minor; a stomach bug, the flu perhaps, but if you make bad decisions or are unlucky, it could be much more serious.
Before you Travel
1. 25% of people who go on holiday don’t take out travel insurance. So the first piece of advice is: don’t risk it. Take out medical insurance before you go. Costs of medical care abroad can be extortionate for visitors and repatriation bills even higher. If something happens, it you or your family who will end up footing the bill, and insurance is not expensive anyway.
2. Ensure you declare pre-existing medical conditions or you may invalidate your cover.
3. Check whether or not you need vaccinations or boosters for the country you are visiting. If you are not sure, go to your GP who will advise you. If you fail to get the right jabs and contract a preventable disease, you’re your policy could be invalidated.
4. If you need any pressing dental work, get it done before you travel.
5. If you take prescription medicines, get a copy of it in case of emergency. Also, check that the country you are going to does not list your medication as a restricted drug.
6. If you are an EU citizen and travelling within the EU, get yourself a European Health Insurance Card to get free or heavily discounted medical cover abroad. You can apply online and it’s very quick and easy.
7. Take a decent medical kit containing rehydrating powders in case of stomach upsets, antiseptic and antihistamine for bites. If travelling to really remote places, then take a pack including sterilised syringes and a transfusion kit.
8. If you are seriously allergic to anything, consider wearing an identity bracelet or chain to announce the fact. Failing that, keep a note inside your wallet which explains the allergy.
9. Take spare glasses or a good supply of contact lenses if your eyesight is poor.
Whilst you are away
10. Always use sun cream of an appropriate factor and remember you can burn even if it is cloudy. If you are at altitude, then the effects of the sun are increased.
11. In hot weather, drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
12. Make sure tap water is safe to drink. If advised against drinking it, use bottled water for everything – including cleaning your teeth – and keep your mouth shut in the shower.
13. A sudden change in diet can upset delicate stomachs, so if this is you, try and introduce new foods gradually to give youself a chance to adjust.
14. Make sure that food is cooked properly – particularly meat and shellfish.
15. Avoid eating food from street stalls that looks like it has been sitting in the sun all day.
16. If the local tap water is a problem, then avoid ice in drinks. Salads too, are often washed in tap water and can make you ill.
17. Don’t have unprotected sex with partners you have met abroad (or at home for that matter!).
18. If you are in a malarial area, ensure you are taking anti-malarial pills and use mosquito repellent and a mosquito net at night.
19. Watch out for traffic as a pedestrian or a driver. Standards of driving and road etiquette differ wildly all over the world. Qatar, South Africa, Botswana, Kazakhstan and Malaysia have the highest death rates in road accidents.
Once you are home
20. Carry on taking any anti-malarial pills or any other prescribed medication you are on for the recommended amount of time.
21. If you have been to tropical climes and are ill on your return with unusual symptoms, then let your doctor know. Be aware that some parasites can remain dormant for many months or even years before symptoms become apparent.
22. Send off any medical receipts or bills you have incurred to your insurance company.
For further information check the FCO’s Travel Health Pages