How to stay healthy on your holiday

How to stay healthy on your holiday

As we move into summer, lots of us will be looking forward to packing our bags and heading off on our jollies. But whether you're jetting off in search of sun, sea and sand or itching for a buzzing city break, one thing none of us will be hoping for on our summer get-away is a holiday bug or illness.

Tummy troubles, sunburn and mosquito bites are all common holiday complaints that can put the clappers on your plans, but the good news is that just a few simple precautions can keep these at bay and help you stay fit and well all through your hols.

Dodge a dippy tummy

Unfamiliar food and different toilet provisions can upset our digestion on holiday, making bloating, sickness, constipation and diarrhoea more likely.

Water has a lot to do with keeping you well and it’s not just about regularly washing your hands. One of the best ways to keep your digestion in check when you’re away is to keep yourself hydrated, by drinking about one and half litres of water each day, Kate Arnold, a nutritional consultant and Dulcolax advisor, recommends.  But if you’re abroad, make sure you only touch sealed, bottled water as tap water isn’t always safe. Adopt a ‘no-ice’ policy when drinking out in restaurants and cafes too as freezing often doesn’t kill the germs in foreign water.

Give seafood, salad and any pre-prepared fruit you haven’t washed yourself for the same reason.  “Instead pick refreshing food like apples, bananas and figs you can peel or prepare yourself as these are full of fibre and will keep your digestion regular” says Kate. “Getting up off your deck chair to have a swim, go for a walk or have a round of golf will also keep food moving through your intestine, keeping you healthy.”

Worries about where you’ll find the nearest loo can also lead to tummy upsets and trouble ‘going’. Kate advises trying to keep to your usual toilet routine as much as possible when you’re away and trying not to panic about when your next toilet stop will be as the stress can stop you being able to go.

If, unfortunately, you do end up with the runs, rest up, use rehydration sachets or anti-diarrhoea drugs and eat bland foods like crackers, toast and rice until you get better.

Put a stop to sunburn

However much you might enjoy basking in the sunny weather, getting sunburn or sunstroke is no fun. Not only is it painful and uncomfortable in the short term, getting sunburnt can also up your risk of developing melanoma later in life.

The key is obviously to try and avoid getting burnt in the first place by regularly applying and topping up your sun cream (that has an SPF of 30 or more), staying out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, donning those cool sun shades and covering up your skin with clothing, including wearing a hat that protects your face, neck and ears.

If an accident does happen, though, and you end up with sunburn, follow these tips from Dr Anjali Mahto, a Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson.

  • Firstly, get out of the sun, cover up and wear loose cotton clothing that lets your skin ‘breathe’
  • Take over the counter pain relief, like analgesia or anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen for at least 48 hours
  • Cool your skin with a damp towel for 15 minutes or take a cool bath or shower in water that’s just below luke-warm. Pat don’t rub yourself down with a towel
  • After washing, moisturise your skin with an unperfumed cream or lotion. Gels containing aloe vera or soy are particularly good for treating sunburn. But steer clear of anything containing petroleum, benzocaine and lidocaine as these can make it worse
  • Keep drinking your bottled water and avoid too much alcohol as suburn can make you feel dehydrated
  • Don’t be tempted to touch any blisters as this can cause infection. Instead just leave them be and they will just settle down in time.

Beat the bites

While some people are barely touched by the little creatures that populate our holiday destinations, others of us are regularly considered tasty grub for summer pests. And while we can’t control some of the things that attract little biters to us, like our blood type and the natural bacteria in our skin, there are a few ways you can try and protect yourself from becoming dinner.

Surprisingly, what colour clothes you wear can make a big difference. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours such as black and navy blue, so it’s is best to dress in light colours such as white or pastels.

Insect repellent is the most effective way of keeping the biters at bay.  Diethyltouamide (DEET) is the most effective chemical repellent available and has a good safety record says Dr Anjali Mahto, a Consultant Dermatologist and British Skin Foundation.  There are a few plant based chemicals that can help protect you too, including citronella, lemon eucalyptus, and neem to name a few.

If you do get bitten, though, minimise the pain by:

  • Taking antihistamines which will relieve the itching and swelling
  • Trying a mild steroid cream like hydrocortisone 0.5-2.5% and applying this twice a day for a few days can reduce inflammation
  • Applying calming calamine lotion to the bites
  • Cooling your skin with a cold compress
  • Resisting the urge to itch or scratch
  • Watching out for any change to the bites such as discharge around it, increased redness or if you develop swollen glands. This may mean that the bites have become infected and may need treating with antibiotics so ask a GP to check it out.

And don't forget to pack these holiday health essentials...