Sail away from summer sickness

WHEN a summer sickness strikes, it can ruin your holiday. LISA HAYNES reports on how best to keep it at bay.A relaxing holiday is the ultimate getaway - a chance to kick back, relax and take in the sights.

WHEN a summer sickness strikes, it can ruin your holiday. LISA HAYNES reports on how best to keep it at bay.

A relaxing holiday is the ultimate getaway - a chance to kick back, relax and take in the sights. But a group of holidaymakers on the Fred Olsen liner Black Prince hadn't banked on contracting a nasty bout of a vomiting virus when they set sail from Edinburgh recently.

During the trip, 105 passengers were confined to their cabins for 48 hours after suffering vomiting and diarrhoea.

It was the second outbreak in less than a month on the ship, which was bound for Greenland and Iceland. With the luxurious cruise cut short, The Black Prince and its green-faced passengers were forced to dock in Leith.

"This holiday turned into a nightmare," one passenger said.

When you've waited all year to don your flip-flops and sunshades, a nasty holiday illness could mean you're swapping the beach for bedside recovery. Falling ill is undesirable at any time, but when you're in unfamiliar surroundings, it can make your bout of sickness seem all the more distressing.

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Catching a bug while you're abroad is not uncommon, according to GP Lisa Silver.

"Vomiting viruses are common when anyone is living in close quarters with anybody else, particularly when it's warm," she warned.

"When you go on holiday, because it's hotter and viruses can replicate more quickly, you're much more at risk of getting any virus that's going around. Because you can't see these viruses people imagine that they don't exist but they do. Within less than 12 hours of picking up the bug, you would start to feel unwell and probably be ill for a minimum of 24 hours."

Enjoying good food and drink is part and parcel of embracing the holiday spirit, but there is a simple solution to swerving a nasty sickness bug.

Dr Silver said: "Washing your hands regularly is really important - simple things work. Wash your hands after you go to the toilet and before you eat and if any member of your family is ill, use separate towels."

You can't pack every medicinal supply in your bathroom cupboard for your holiday, unless you want to face a hefty baggage charge. But taking the basics is essential for a healthy getaway.

Dr Silver said: "It's good to take a mini version of your medical cupboard at home so that if you do get ill you don't have to trek around in a strange place to find medicines. However, most pharmacies abroad have the ability to sell you most things and are usually highly qualified so you may not have to see a GP."

But what essentials should you include if illness does strike on your holiday?

"Take any medicines that you are currently on and ensure that you have enough supplies to last the length of your holiday," Dr Silver advised.

"A really good medicine to take abroad in the event of illness is Loperamide or Dioralyte for diarrhoea. Paracetamol is also a fantastic must-have medicine if you get a temperature, or use Calpol for children. I would always take something in case I injured myself abroad like anti-inflammatory Ibuprofen."

Don't rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) as it only covers emergency medical treatment. Make sure you have good quality health insurance.

The Department of Health produces a handy booklet, Health Advice for Travellers, which is available from most Post Offices and online (www.dh.govt.uk).

Seek advice about vaccinations at least six to eight weeks before you travel and take your vaccination certificate with you.

Pack any medication in your hand luggage and take a small first aid kit. Carry a spare doctor's prescription for your medication in a separate bag. Note the generic names of prescription drugs as brand names may vary abroad.

If you or any of your party requires emergency treatment, make sure you call your travel insurer's emergency helpline as soon as is practical and take their advice. If you don't, they may refuse to pay for any treatment required.

Unless you're sure it's safe, don't drink the water. This advice includes not eating ice-cream or having ice in your drinks and don't eat salads or shellfish, which are usually washed in tap water. Drink boiled or bottled water or use purifying tablets (available online for £2.39 from www.pharmacy2u.co.uk).

Beware of food left uncovered on display at room temperature - that includes buffets and the sweet trolley.

Beware of strong sun - especially between 11am and 3pm. Apply high factor sun creams frequently and wear a sun hat.

If malaria tablets are required, make sure you take them while on holiday and complete the course when you return home.

Use insect repellent. You may need a different repellent for young children. Mosquitoes like to feed in the early evening. Beware - they can carry 80 different diseases! Cover arms, legs and feet, avoid wearing black (mosquitoes are attracted to black) and don't spend time outside near stagnant water. Burn insect repellent tablets and coils at night. These are much cheaper in larger foreign supermarkets than in the UK. Don't scratch bites - they will become inflamed and infected and could scar. Soothe them with antihistamine cream, calamine lotion and ice. Menthol spray reduces itching and arnica reduces inflammation. If bites begin to turn nasty seek medical advice immediately.

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