Every summer almost 4,000 young people aged 18-25 are admitted to hospital whilst abroad. Whether you are partying in a European hotspot, or travelling to a far flung destination for your gap year, a holiday gives you the chance to let loose and have fun with friends in the sun; however, health accidents abroad are on the rise, and can will cause nothing but stress on your summer break. Here Dr. Hilary provides Travel Health Advice for Young Adults.
Many young people do not think about the dangers of going abroad, but the reality is that everyday health problems are more likely to occur on holiday due to unsanitary conditions and heavy sun exposure and drinking. However, simply planning ahead and making sure you have a range of basic medications with you means that both yourself and your friends can stay safe and healthy during your summer break.
Before your Holiday
Before going on holiday it’s worth preparing for any common health issues that may occur, such as minor cuts and grazes, headaches and sun exposure. Travel first aid kits are important to take on holiday and typically include plasters, bandages, antiseptic cream or wipes and mild painkillers. Extra medication that I would advise packing include anti burn treatments, diarrhoea medication and insect repellent.
Taking out travel health insurance is vital to ensure that in the instance that something does happen abroad, your insurance company will cover any necessary medical bills. Typically insurance can cost as little as £10 for a week and comparing this to the average medical bill abroad which can cost around £2,000, it seems foolish not to purchase a policy.
Whilst on Holiday
There are a number of dangers that you need to be aware of while on holiday and these can include anything from a small bug bite to diarrhoea, and even malaria.
However, alcohol is typically one of the first things that young adults often reach for when they arrive at their holiday destination, but this can often be the most dangerous. Drinking during the hot summer weather increases the risk of heat stroke caused by dehydration. Avoid drinking during the day when the sun is at its strongest but if you do drink, be sure to alternate between alcoholic drinks and water to ensure you stay hydrated. If you do become dehydrated you may experience nausea, bad headaches and even in extreme cases may need to be taken to hospital for treatment. Another side effect of drinking alcohol is increased confidence. Many young people are often involved in outdoor activities such as boating and swimming, which aren’t safe when drinking, and have the risk of causing serious injury.
The heat and power of the sun abroad is another health factor that needs to be considered. It is so important to protect your skin from damage so always wear SPF 15 or higher to protect you from the strong UV rays and be sure to reapply sun protection regularly. Sunburn can be extremely damaging, as not only is it extremely painful and unappealing to the eye, the long-term damage can result in skin cancer.
Sexual health is another health issue that sometimes is overlooked by young people, but is extremely important to think about before going on holiday. Doctors are increasingly seeing young people come back from their summer breaks with STI’s, as the relaxed environment on holiday and increased levels of alcohol, lead to inhibitions being lost and an increase in unprotected sex, unwanted pregnancy and STI’s. Shocking statistics show that 7 out of 10 young holiday makers have unprotected sex so if you are sexually active on holiday, make sure you practice safe sex and always wear a condom. For women, it is also worth considering using another form of contraception to protect against unwanted pregnancy (although it will not protect you from STI’s!).
Not usually talked about, but one of the most common health conditions that can develop on holiday, diarrhoea can occur due to different types of food you are eating and from drinking tap water. I would suggest always drinking bottled water and avoid drinks with ice drinks, especially if you are travelling outside of the EU. If you do experience diarrhoea it can be treated easily with Imodium, and using Dioralyte sachets will replenish important salts and sugars that the body needs. HealthExpress has a handy ‘Travellers Diarrhoea Pack’, which is worth taking on any trip abroad.
Also if you are travelling outside of the EU, please always research if you are travelling in an area that carries malaria. Prevalent in many countries, especially in South America, Africa and Asia, it is a nasty disease, which can cause serious health conditions and in the most serious cases be fatal. Anti-malarials are advises to be taken, sometimes a few weeks before your visit and online health advisers can recommend the best prevention for you.
Ultimately holidays are meant to be fun so if you take the necessary health precautions, there is no reason why your holiday can’t be everything you dreamed and more.