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How to take care of your health on holiday

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From booking ski insurance to carrying prescription medications, these pre-travel tips will help you decide how to take care of your health on holiday and enjoy a hassle-free stay in your hotel.

Do I need travel vaccinations?

Whether you need immunisations depends on your destination. Ask your doctor about vaccinations and boosters two months before you travel, as it can take several weeks to become immune. If you have a pre-existing condition or are pregnant, make sure you're fit to travel and able to have vaccinations before booking a holiday.

What should my travel insurance cover?

There are some great travel insurance deals, but be sure to read the small print. Choose a policy that covers the worst case scenario, like an emergency flight home. If you're going to participate in extreme sports like scuba diving and skiing, you may need to upgrade to a more expensive policy. Over-60s might need to shop around to find a specialist company willing to insure them.

How about insurance for pre-existing medical conditions?

Tell your insurance company about all pre-existing conditions like heart problems, asthma and diabetes, otherwise your policy might not be valid. Loss or theft of medication is not always covered.

Does an EHIC card entitle me to free healthcare abroad?

If you're an EU citizen, you can apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for free or reduced-cost emergency treatment in the EU, Switzerland, and countries with reciprocal healthcare agreements. EHIC application forms are available at post offices and online. The card isn't a substitute for insurance as it doesn't cover repatriation and non-emergency treatment.

How can I travel with prescription medications?

You can carry up to 100ml of liquid or 50mg of powder prescription medicines, placed in a clear plastic bag, in your hand luggage. Bring a signed, dated doctor's letter stating your condition, particularly if you need to take syringes or needles onboard. Take copies of your insurance policy, emergency telephone numbers and generic names of any medication with you. Some countries have restrictions on certain types of medicines, including codeine. Contact the embassy if in doubt.

Should I take a first aid kit?

First aid kits are handy and sold in most chemists. Pack things like plasters, painkillers, antidiarrhoeal treatments, mosquito repellent, laxatives, contraceptives, and antihistamines for bites and allergies. 

Any tips for air travel?

Deep vein thrombosis is thought to be a risk on longer flights, especially for pregnant women. Take precautions like drinking plenty of water, rotating your feet when seated and walking around the cabin. Beat jet lag by staying hydrated and returning to your normal routine as soon as you can.

How do I protect myself from the sun?

Keep cool by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that block rays 100%, and drinking lots of water. Seek shade from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the hottest time of the day. Prevent sunburn and heatstroke by liberally applying sunscreen with SPF 20+ at least every two hours and after swimming. 

How do I prevent malaria?

If you're travelling to a malaria-endemic area, talk to your doctor about which anti-malarials are suitable. Wear a DEET-based repellent and check that your hotel provides mosquito nets. 

Can I drink the water?

One of the most common travel ailments is diarrhoea, often caused by contaminated water. Drink and clean your teeth with purified or bottled water instead of tap water. In countries with lower standards of drinking water, avoid ice, ice cream and fruit rinsed in water. 

What is safe to eat?

Take care with food that has been sitting too long on the buffet, especially in heat or around flies. The safest food is cooked fresh and served piping hot. Choose whole rather than pre-sliced fruit and peel it yourself. Seafood is riskier than other foods, particularly raw shellfish like oysters.