Woman dacning on beach at sunset on holiday

Holiday Health: how to avoid holiday illness

Too much sun, travel stress not to mention overindulgence can quickly put paid to the benefits of your longed-for summer break.

A few smart moves will ensure you don’t arrive back feeling below par and needing another holiday just to recover, says Editor Jane Garton.

Before you go

Although exciting, getting ready for a holiday, can be stressful. Sometimes just your ‘to do’ list before you set off can be long enough to make you anxious. If stress gets to you it can weaken your immune defences leaving you open to all types of infection.

Boosting your immunity before you go with enough rest, plenty of fruit and vegetables, and a zinc supplement is a good idea. Meanwhile a good probiotic will help protect against traveller’s tummy. Make sure also to check out your health insurance, jabs, prescription meds and any over the counter products you may need such as anti-histamines and sun cream.

On the plane

Germs can be rife on planes due to the recirculating air. And being in a confined space with so many other people means exposure to even more. Remember to wash hands especially before and after eating and using the loo. Carry antimicrobial gel and wipes for your hands and surfaces.

If travelling long haul, wear compression stockings. Move your feet and legs regularly in your seat and walk up and down the cabin as much as you can to avoid deep vein thrombosis (DVT) from reduced circulation. Also remember to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.

On arrival

When crossing time zones, reaching for the duvet on arrival at your holiday spot may be tempting but resist it. Instead sit somewhere quietly to allow yourself time to acclimatise to your new holiday surroundings, change the time on your watch to the new time zone, and try to stay awake until night time. Eat at normal meal times and make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Guarana or ginseng can help you stay alert while lemon balm and valerian can help you sleep.

Beat the bugs

There’s nothing worse than arriving home covered in mozzie bites. Avoidance tactics include covering your arms and legs when going out, especially on warm summer evenings when bugs like to bite, and using anti-mosquito devices or sleeping under a net at night. Burning a few drops of citronella oil in a burner can help to turn your bedroom into a bite-free zone.

If you do get bitten calendula cream will help reduce swelling and relieve itching. Lavender essential oil or aloe vera gel can also be very soothing. If you don’t have these with you, applying a few drops of lemon juice can work just as well.

Eat wisely

Trying the local cuisine is part of the holiday experience but if you are not careful you could end up coming home with travellers’ tummy. For example, bacteria or viruses in poorly cooked or contaminated foods can lead to nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea, which can quickly put paid to any fun.

Protective tactics include checking food is well cooked before eating and avoiding cold buffets where food may have been sitting out for hours. You also need to steer clear of ice in drinks. Stick to bottled water, wash all fruit and veg before eating and be suspicious of any food that smells odd.

If you go down with a bug, avoid tea, coffee, fatty foods and fruit and veg for 24 hours. Stick to bland foods such as crackers, dry toast or clear soup. Herbal teas such as fennel, ginger or peppermint can also be soothing.

Watch the sun

It can be tempting to spend too long in the sun especially on the first few days of your holiday but remember too much sun increases your risk of skin cancer. Slapping on the factor 30, wearing a hat, and covering up and heading for the shade when the sun is at its hottest (between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.) are the sun safety rules you can’t afford to ignore.

If you do over do it and start to burn, move out of the sun as fast as you can. Next smother the area with aloe vera gel to cool down the skin and calm any painful inflammation. And don’t venture back into the sun uncovered until the affected area has completely healed.

Coming home

Pre-empt the post-holiday blues when you book, by arriving home a day or two before you return to work. Make sure you’ve left some food in the freezer and your work clothes washed and ready, so it’s not straight back to household chores. Keep the holiday feeling going by downloading and editing your travel snaps into a photobook, or inviting friends over for a holiday-themed meal like tapas or a Greek mezze. Finally go online and start booking your next trip!

Top holiday tips:

Switch your mobile off

If your office insists you stay in touch arrange a specific time each day when they can contact you. But outside of that time, turn your email alerts off.

Review and reflect

Spend those long hours in the lounger dreaming about what you really want from life. Leave any detailed plans until later.


You may want to try your hand at snorkelling or surfing but make sure you also set aside some time for doing absolutely nothing.

Discover a new skill

Whether it’s painting in Tuscany or yoga in Greece, doing something new can be incredibly energising.


Bring back a memento such as a shell or an ornament, which you can look at back home to remind you of your holiday.

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