holiday health

Health & Wellbeing

Holiday health

holiday health
Swimming costume, flip flops, good book, smart phone, we all have our essentials list for when we go on holiday to try and ensure that we make the most of our break. However to make sure you really are healthy on holiday, your essentials list should always start with travel insurance, first aid kit and sun cream.

We all want to have fun while we’re away but if we were to get sunburned, ill or worse it could ruin not only the holiday but also have an impact on life once you return home.

Our holiday tips below will give you some ideas and information about how to make the most of your holiday safely.


Travel insurance

This is probably the most important thing you can leave for your holiday with beside your passport. The average cost of overseas medical treatment is £2,040 but it can run much higher than that.

Getting medical care on holiday could cost you thousands of pounds, travel insurance that covers you getting home and medical expenses is essential. Other insurance like credit card accident cover and private health insurance doesn’t cover most travel emergencies.

Without insurance you might have to cover emergency expenses on your own – the British Consulate is unlikely to help you.

You should also remember to take your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC formally the E111) you get the same level of state-provided medical care as someone who lives in the country you are visiting. It’s valid in all European Economic Area countries and Switzerland.

However the local level of care may not be what you’d get in the UK and you may need to pay part of your bills, if that’s how the local system works in the country you’re visiting.

It should be remembered that whilst you can use the card to get medical care it will not cover anything more serious so it should not be relied on as your only form of health cover when you are on holiday.


Sun exposure

Sunburn increases your risk of skin cancer, Avoiding sunburn is a big part of staying healthy on holiday, however sunburn doesn’t just happen on holiday abroad – you can burn here in the UK even when it’s cloudy.

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or sunbeds is the main cause of skin cancer. In the UK 8 in 10 cases of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, could be prevented by enjoying the sun safely and avoiding sunburn.

There are two main types of UV rays that damage skin, both can cause skin cancer:

  • UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns
  • UVA penetrates deeper into the skin. It ages the skin and contributes towards skin cancer

Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect you from the sun. Wear suitable clothing and spend time in the shade when the sun is at its hottest.

When you buy your sunscreen the label should have:

  • A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against UVB
  • At least four star UVA protection

UVA protection can also be indicated by the letters UVA in a circle which indicates that it meets the EU standard

Make sure that the sunscreen is not past its expiry date. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of two to three years and don’t spend any longer in the sun than you would without sunscreen.


What are the SPF and Star Ratings?

The sun protection factor or SPF is a measure of the amount of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) protection.

SPFs are rated on a scale of 2 – 50+ based on the level of protection they offer, with 50+ offering the strongest UVB protection.

The star rating measures the amount of ultraviolet a radiation (UVA) protection. You should see a star rating of up to five stars on UK sunscreens. The higher the rating the better.

The letters UVA inside a circle is a European marking meaning the UVA protection is at least one third of the SPF value.



Although most of us would think we don’t need advice on how to apply sunscreen however, most people don’t apply enough.  Don’t rely on your usual face cream or make up to protect you and keep you healthy on holiday, even if it contains SPF, it may not give you the same level of protection as a sun cream.

As a general rule adults should aim to apply around:

  • Two teaspoons of sunscreen if you’re just covering your face, head, arms and neck
  • Two tablespoons if you’re covering your entire body while wearing a swimming costume.

If sunscreen is applied too thinly the amount of protection it gives is reduced. So if you are worried you aren’t applying enough SPF15 you could change to a stronger SP30.

If you are going to be out in the sun long enough to run the risk of burning, sunscreen  needs to be applied twice, 30 minutes before going out and just before going out.

Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin, including the face, neck and ears – and head if you have thinning or no hair – but a wide brimmed hat is better.

Apply it liberally and frequently and according to the manufactures instructions.

This includes applying it straight after you’ve been in water – even if it’s ‘water resistant’ – and after towel drying, sweating, or when it may have rubbed off.

Sun creams offering ‘all day protection’ provide protection for longer than other sun creams, but check the maximum time on the bottle.


Protect your eyes

Protecting your eyes is vital part of staying healthy on holiday.

Time in the sun without proper eye protection can cause a temporary but painful burn to the surface of the eye, similar to sunburn.

Reflected sunlight from snow, sand, concrete and water is particularly dangerous.

Always make sure sunglasses come with the CE Mark and the European standard EN 1836:2005


First aid kit

A first aid kit is a sure fire way to stay healthy on holiday. Remember to pack one, as you never know what you might need and over the counter medications that can be freely purchased in the UK may not be available or different where you are. The exact contents will depend on your travel plans but a basic first aid kit can include:

  • Plasters
  • Painkillers (paracetamol and ibuprofen)
  • Antihistamines (to help with insect bites and allergies)
  • Sunburn Treatment
  • Insect repellent and bite treatment)
  • Stomach medicine such as indigestion and diarrhoea relief
  • Medication for pre-existing conditions – also make sure you have the full details of all medications in kept safe in case you lose or run out of the ones that you have.



Some countries may also require you to have vaccinations before travel for more information click here for more details. GOV.UK: foreign travel advice


Drinking water

In countries with poor sanitation, don’t drink tap water or use it to brush your teeth unless it has been treated. You should avoid having ice in drinks too.

Filtered, bottled, boiled or chemically treated water should be used. Bottled fizzy drinks with an intact seal are usually safe, as are boiled water and hot drinks made with boiled water.


Foods to avoid

Most of us tend not to eat healthy on holiday, over eat or try different local dishes we’re not used to, so it’s advisable to have indigestion tablets on hand to help ease discomfort if needed.

In countries with poor sanitation, it’s advisable to avoid certain foods:

  • Salads and uncooked fruits and vegetables, unless they have been washed in safe water and peeled by the traveller
  • Food that has been allowed to stand at room temperature in warm environments or exposed to flies, such as in an open buffet
  • Unpasteurised milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish or seafood
  • Food from street traders, unless it is has been recently prepared and is served hot on clean crockery
  • Eat freshly prepared food that is thoroughly cooked and served steaming hot.


Summary of tips

  • Make sure you take out appropriate travel insurance
  • Remember your EHIC card
  • Take the right factor sun cream and a apply liberally and regularly
  • Pack a first aid kit which includes over the counter medications
  • Watch where and what you eat and drink in countries with poor sanitation
  • Take details of all prescription medications you need


Follow these, and you’re sure to stay healthy on holiday!


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