Summer, sun, mountains, beach – you have been looking forward to your hard-earned vacation for weeks, but no sooner have you arrived than you fall ill. Being unwell on holiday can ruin what should be the happiest time of the year. Stomach bugs, allergies or sunburn – the climate and hygiene at foreign holiday destinations are often very different from what we are used to at home. Moreover, it is a proven fact that accidents happen more frequently on vacation – not because we take less care, but because on holiday we are often more active than in everyday life and we take part in activities that we rarely or never do at home.
Start preparing for your trip early on
What precautions can you take and what should you do if despite everything you fall ill while you are abroad? Depending on the destination, good travel preparation starts weeks or even months before the start of the trip. Find out about the climate, common illnesses and any vaccination requirements for the region you wish to visit. Information on the necessary vaccinations and other medical advice for the country you are travelling to are available, among others, from your GP, the Federal Office of Public Health or healthytravel.ch, an online platform run by the Swiss Expert Committee for Travel Medicine. It is also advisable to take the opportunity to check your insurance cover for sickness and accidents abroad. Consider early on taking out supplementary or travel insurance or road assistance cover and check the validity of your Rega patronage. Also, do not forget to read the small print on your insurance policies, such as any coverage exclusions.
After you have obtained all the necessary information, you can compile your personal travel first aid kit. The contents depend very much on the type of holiday and your destination, how long you are staying, and what activities you intend to do while you are there. Therefore, it is difficult to make general recommendations. Medication in your hand luggage Despite this, we have complied for you a list of medicaments that belong in every travel first aid kit (see box). If you suffer from a specific illness and have to take medication, it is important to carry a sufficient quantity with you in your hand luggage. If you take any medication that falls under the Federal Narcotics Act, we strongly advise you to find out before you travel whether you are allowed to take it into the country and what conditions apply. Your GP will be pleased to advise you.
Protect your skin
Once you have arrived at your holiday destination, a little thought and care can go a long way towards ensuring that the best weeks of the year go off without a hitch. Make sure you use sunscreen with a sufficiently high sun protection factor; depending on the country (e.g. Australia or New Zealand), the local recommendation may well be considerably higher than at home (SPF 50–70). Insect bites and stings can be avoided by wearing appropriate clothing and applying insect repellent. Even minor injuries should be consistently and repeatedly disinfected and itchy skin treated with remedies that have a soothing, anti-irritant effect.
Cook, boil, peel
One of the most common conditions that afflicts holidaymakers is traveller’s diarrhoea, which is caused by a change in diet and exposure to bacteria and viruses to which their body is not accustomed. While traveller’s diarrhoea is very unpleasant, in most cases it proceeds without complication and subsides by itself after three or four days. The main treatment is to compensate for the loss of fluids and salt. To avoid getting diarrhoea in the first place, it helps to adhere to the saying: “Cook it, boil it, peel it or forget it!”
And if, despite all the precautions you have taken, you become seriously ill, Rega is there for you around the clock, including when you are abroad. Give us a call if you suffer a medical problem abroad and are not sure what to do. In many cases, our medical consultants can already help you over the phone. Or we will arrange for you to fly home in the Rega jet or on board a scheduled aircraft accompanied by a member of Rega’s medical staff. We wish you a wonderful and relaxing summer and, above all, an accident- and illness-free vacation.