A few years ago my brother needed medical attention on holiday in Greece because he’d had an allergic reaction to the feather pillows – after being prescribed medicine from a local pharmacist it took 3 grown adults to help him off the plane home, including one of us to just guide his legs. No alcohol was consumed on the flight but he was definitely legless!
Around about the same time my husband lost an entire holiday to some epic drugs he received for flu symptoms, bonafide medicine from a bonafide doctor, which completely spaced him out and to this day he can’t recall a thing. (Unfortunately the pills that made it home have all since been consumed and we now resort to a good box set and a bottle of chianti for our ethereal fix)
So you see, getting sick on holiday is a reality, and it is even proven that the adrenaline that keeps us going on the lead up to a holiday also affects our immune system and by the time you’ve made it to the pool, sipping that first cold beer, your immune response has given up the ghost and is letting in germs left right and centre. Before you know it, you’re back in the hotel room with man-flu (holiday sickness syndrome) and your family are off on the banana boat without you. So, what can you do to prepare for the worst, how can you stay healthy whilst travelling and what can you do if you do need medical attention on holiday? Well, by night I may be a travel blogger but by day I have been a health professional for 23 years now (yes I am that old) so I have a few pretty nifty tricks up my sleeve for treating some fairly common holiday ailments. Plus, I’ve put together a reminder checklist for you – what to pack in your travel first aid kit.
Home Remedies For Holiday Sickness
I’ve broken it down into what I think are the most common illnesses for families that travel, 4 annoyances that can spoil your holiday if you’re not careful…
- Earache. Oh the times I have had to console my kids after a day in the pool and their ears are causing them so much pain! But, I am convinced it starts with the cabin pressure during the flight. All that ear popping, especially during takeoff and landing, is bound to inflame their little ear tubes somewhat. Therefore, it’s really important you encourage them to sip drinks or suck sweets throughout the flight. Ear plugs whilst swimming can reduce the amount of irritation the ear drum gets during pool hours and keep checking if they feel like their ears are blocked, if so, try and get them to lie on the affected side as soon as possible – the longer the water is in there, the higher the chance of infection. If they do start complaining of earache, hot water bottles or wheat bags are good as the heat loosens the wax and relieves pressure behind the eardrum. Alternatively, garlic or onion in a clean sock held on the ear can be very effective too – garlic and onion both have analgesic and antibacterial properties in them which can help prevent an infection. And the rest of you stink of garlic from that healthy mediterranean diet anyway so what’s a stinky child thrown into the mix!?
- Stomach Ache. A change in diet and even different mineral properties in water can upset any iron stomach so what can you do to prevent stomach ache and feeling sick on holiday? Outside of the USA, Western Europe and Australia drink bottled water and clean your teeth and gargle with it too. Don’t have ice in your drinks and be wary of washed salads also. Most restaurants around the world can be found on trip advisor now and although you sometimes need to take some reviews with a pinch of salt, you certainly get an idea if a place is clean and can be trusted from these reports, so do your research. If you do find yourself in a bit of discomfort and even running to the loo every ten minutes then try the following : Drink Coca Cola – honestly, I hate the stuff and my family are not allowed it, however – have you seen what it does to a dirty coin? So, in theory it should kill any little bugs, right? Plain Yoghurt is usually quite accessible on holiday, you’ll find it in the breakfast buffet, and so long as it’s sugar free the natural probiotics in yoghurt will help repair the digestive tract (if it needs sweetening a bit just add a little honey). A hot water bottle can be a child’s best friend when they’re suffering from a sore stomach – heat increases the flow of blood to the surface of the skin and the perception of pain goes from the inside to the outside.
- Sunburn. I have two kids who burn so easily and I have learnt the hard way how to handle burnt skin. First of all, check the UV levels for that day – it may be overcast and not even that hot but some days have particularly high UV rays regardless of whether you can see the sun or not. The scale is 0 – 11 but anything from 5 upwards can burn you to a crisp if you’re not careful (equally some very sunny hot days can have a low UV of under 5 and your skin is much safer). However, if you’ve been caught out here are some tips; Drink lots of water – your skin is dehydrated so the extra moisture you put in will speed up the healing process. Milk and yoghurt create a protein film when applied to the sunburn which helps ease discomfort. Freshly brewed tea contains tannic acid, so when it’s cooled down, apply the black tea to the skin to draw heat from the sunburn.
- Holiday Flu. Also known as Holiday Sickness Syndrome. Professor Cary Cooper of Lancaster University says “Your immune system is stimulated by the pressure, so when you have deadlines your body knows you can’t get ill. When you take a break your immune system just thinks – no more pressure; I can get sick now.” And, how true that can be. So, before you even go on holiday gradually reduce your workload in the lead up to your time off and take echinacea too to boost your immune system. But, if you do start to feel rough the minute your holiday begins try these home remedies; There is lots of evidence that meditation and breathing techniques reduce blood pressure and boost immunity. Reading a book also has a similar chemical response. Drink plenty of water. Eat as much garlic and raw onion as possible – try incorporating into a salad maybe. Hot water and freshly squeezed lemon break up mucus and reduce cold symptoms. Stick to foods which are easy to digest so your system can concentrate all its energies on recovery and not digestion. Go and find yourself a sunlounger with a bowl of peanuts – the nuts are a high source of zinc and the sun makes you produce vitamin D – both needed to aid cell recovery and boost immunity.
What To Pack In Your Travel First Aid Kit
Here’s my travel checklist on handy items to have for holiday illnesses…
- Sun Cream, sun hats and UV protecting swimwear
- Alcohol based hand gel
- Mosquito repellent and sting relief
- Anti-diarrhea tablets (and probiotics for children)
- Rehydration sachets – handy for sun-stroke or a bad stomach
- Travel sickness pills or travel bands
What To Do If You Get Sick On Holiday
When your holiday illness reaches a stage where you need medical treatment, don’t hesitate to contact a health professional. If you are carrying your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) then most if not all costs can be recouped from state provided healthcare in Europe and Switzerland, either right then or at a later date. Alternatively, some Health Insurance’s cover the cost of private medical care too but make sure you check the details of your cover first. If for some unfortunate reason you receive poor health advice or treatment which leads to health repercussions, or the standards of your all inclusive hotel don’t reach expectations and a member of your family gets sick on holiday because of food poisoning or unhygienic swimming pools then you can make a ‘sick on holiday’ claim with Your Legal Friend, so long as certain terms are met.
A lot of money, time and energy go into finding, booking and sorting a family holiday and there is nothing worse when all that effort is thwarted by holiday sickness, so go ahead – prepare in advance, take necessary precautions and hopefully you will get the perfect holiday you all dreamed of and no one will be filling their socks with garlic!
Disclaimer; This was a collaborative post but all thoughts and opinions are, as always, my own.
Looking for travel inspiration? Why not have a read of some of my other posts;
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