As the Summer holidays get into full swing, many of us, including us over 50s, are looking forward to a holiday away. But holiday travel can itself present its own challenges, particularly when it comes to health. Nikki White of the UK’s largest travel association, ABTA, gives The Best of Health her top tips and travel advice for health risk-free holidays.
Travel for the over 50s
So perhaps your children have left the nest, or you’re looking forward to enjoying your retirement with the freedom and opportunities to travel that these life changes can bring. Well, travel is a very popular option at this time of life and ABTA research consistently finds that the over 50s take substantially more foreign trips than other age groups. However, travel can present its own challenges in relation to health and safety issues. Here are some of ABTA’s top travel tips to help ensure your trip is as problem free as possible.
Travel with Travel Insurance
Every year ABTA sees examples of members of the public who have travelled uninsured, fallen ill and been presented with substantial medical costs, sometimes running into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Apart from hospital costs, if you require an air ambulance to get you home, this will cost £15,000 to £30,000 depending on the length of flight.
The temptation can be to take the risk and not bother with insurance, or to keep quiet about previous health issues, can be a strong one. But you should not give into it, particularly as you will probably be unable to claim if you have not let your insurance company know about any pre-existing medical conditions you may have.
The travel insurance market is highly competitive so shop around and also have a conversation with your insurance company about your general health. Many now take a much more sensible approach to the likelihood of you having to claim and set premiums at a much more reasonable level rather than quoting based just on your age.
Many people rely on the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for medical cover. Although it is useful to have one, EHICs only provide access to state medical care throughout the European Union and one or two other countries. Bear in mind that the standard of state medical care varies widely; many services are not provided free of charge and an EHIC card will not cover the costs of an air ambulance back to the UK, or hotel expenses for your partner if you have a lengthy stay in hospital.
Holidaying with Medication
In most cases, taking a medication should not stop you from going on holiday. There are however, a number of precautions you should take before you set off on your holiday. It may be essential to have a letter from your doctor stating your need for the medication – in case you lose your medicine and need more, and, particularly if you’re visiting a country with strict drug controls. You should always be ready to show this letter to customs officers.
You should also make sure you have enough medication with you to see you through the holiday and allow for any possible delays. If you’ve got diabetes and are on medication or have a dietary restriction, you and your doctor should work out an individual schedule for meal times, taking into account the length of your journey and any time zones.
If flying, ask your doctor if your impairment makes you vulnerable to circulation problems. On board, particularly during long-haul flights, regularly do a bit of mild exercise, such as walking up and down the aisle, and wear support stockings. This will help to minimise the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis.
For further advice on an essential first aid kit for travelling safely, please click on this link.
Travelling and Stomach Upsets
Stomach problems are often caused by unclean tap water. So avoid salads or ice cubes which may have been washed in, or made from, tap water. If you want a cold drink, order a bottled one taken from a fridge. Always make sure that your food has been properly cooked and, if in doubt, don’t eat it.
Inoculations for Risk-Free Holidays
The over 50s are a very adventurous bunch and often travel to far-flung exotic destinations. If you are travelling outside of Western Europe, North America or Australasia you may encounter a number of potential health risks, many of which can be prevented by having taken the appropriate jabs or medication. These can include protection against serious diseases such as hepatitis, yellow fever or malaria. Insect bites are also often the source of many infections, so always ensure that you use an effective insect repellent and take appropriate clothing. Ideally, you should contact a health professional at least eight weeks prior to travel for advice on your destination requirements.
Risk-free Holidays Cruising
Cruising still continues to be big business in the UK. Taking to the waters is a multi-billion dollar industry, enabling people to visit far-flung destinations with multiple stops in a short period of time, whilst also living the high-life on board.
However, if you get ill when on a cruise, it can turn the experience from a dream holiday to a nightmare on the seas. If you’ve booked a cruise and you want to minimise the risk of getting ill when aboard, here are some good tips to follow.
Top Tips to Enjoying Good Health on Your Cruise
- Avoid seasickness. Most cruise ships are fitted with state-of-the-art stabilisers at the hull, which means that it’s unlikely you’ll experience any major sickness whilst at sea. However, the oceans can be unpredictable, so make sure you pack some motion sickness medication or pressure bands in case you get caught in a storm.
- Cruise ships have been hitting headlines in recent years, thanks to outbreaks of norovirus on board. As a result, many cruise ships have worked closely with international health organisations to help prevent the spread of any unpleasant infectious conditions. Dr Richard Dawood, a specialist in travel medicine, reports that “hand sanitisers are everywhere, there’s been a big upgrade in food handling and medical surveillance, including high-level diagnostic testing, has increased on board.”However, if an outbreak happens during your cruise there are some simple steps to reduce your risk of contracting the virus: wash your hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet, avoid raw food (including salads and seafood), hydrate from bottled drinks, and clean your cutlery before use.
- Piling on pounds? The food on cruise ships is generally the stuff of legend, with many travellers reporting a significant weight increase after their holiday. However, it’s entirely possible to eat healthily when you’re on-board. Look for the low-fat options on the menu and make full use of the gym facilities and swimming pool.
- Get vaccinated. Although you’ll be spending a lot of time on the ship, you’ll also be disembarking at a number of different locations, and some may have an increased risk of certain diseases, such as yellow fever or malaria. Before you depart on your cruise, tell your doctor where your itinerary will take you, and ask what vaccinations you require.
- Travel responsibly. It’s very common, especially after a night of drinking and enjoying yourself with new friends, to become a little more frivolous and a little less sensible. As a result, sexually transmitted infections are a risk when on a cruise, as are alcohol-related accidents. Always use protection if you are sexually intimate with a new partner, and don’t drink to the point where you put yourself in any danger.
Preparing for Your Cruise
Before your ship sets sail, you may want to create a list, outlining all the medications you might need while you’re away; from plasters in case you get blisters when exploring a new location, to painkillers in case you get a headache.
If you’re on regular medication, it’s also important to ensure that you have enough supplies to last you while you’re at sea. As you can imagine, it’s considerably challenging to get the right medication once you’ve set sail!
Nikki White is ABTA’s head of destinations and sustainability. For more travel advice and tips from ABTA, visit: http://abta.com
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