Holidays should be full of fun, sun and relaxation – the last thing you want is any health issues whilst you’re away.
Medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke gives us her top travel tips to lower the risk any holiday health problems.
Whether you are travelling to some far flung exotic location or choosing to take some time out closer to home, holidays don’t come without their health hazards. Here’s what to look out for and protective measures you can take.
BE SUN SAFE
A golden tan can make us look and feel great, but is important to remember that UV rays can cause long term damage to the skin, accelerate ageing and increase the risk of skin cancer. According to NHS figures around 2,000 people a year die from skin cancer in the U.K. so sun cream needs to be at the top of your packing list.
As soon as you arrive at your holiday destination apply sun cream with a high spf (sun protection factor) regularly to make sure you don’t burn. If you do get burnt, use some aloe vera gel. Its soothing anti-inflammatory action provides instant relief and speeds up healing.
Coconut oil also makes a wonderful after-sun treatment and gives skin a lovely silky glow – you can also use it as a hair mask to prevent dryness and frizziness when swimming and sunbathing. Taking the powerful antioxidant Astaxanthin has also been shown to reduce the harmful effects of UV rays on the skin. Start taking it a fortnight before you travel and continue taking it for the duration of your holiday.
Avoid the sun, or at least cover up, between 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and wear a brimmed hat to avoid sunstroke and provide extra UV protection for your head, face and neck.
ALWAYS WEAR SUNGLASSES
Remember that your eyes need protecting too. Skin cancer can occur on the eyelids and UV exposure may also increase the incidence of certain eye diseases such as cataracts. This is the perfect excuse to treat yourself to a pair of duty free designer shades at the airport.
BEAT THE BUGS
Mosquito bites may be itchy, painful and unsightly at best but in many destinations being bitten carries the risk of contracting serious diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Always take antimalarial prophylactics prescribed by your GP when travelling to high risk countries.
The secret is to avoid getting bitten in the first place by making sure you cover up when sitting outside, especially at dusk. Try applying citronella oil to the hems of your clothes and under sandal straps to fend off night time critters. There are plenty of natural mosquito repellents on the market that are very effective.
Taking a vitamin B1 supplement may help deter biting mosquitoes. If you do get bitten try applying a little tiger balm to stop the pain and itching. Aloe vera may help too.
AVOID TRAVELLER’S TUMMY
Tummy bugs are all too common and can ruin your holiday. Always take a good quality probiotic supplement with you to help prevent catching nasty bugs. Be sure to stick to bottled water and avoid ice cubes in drinks. Also remember that drinking very cold drinks when you are out in the hot sun can irritate the stomach and cause discomfort and digestive problems.
It goes without saying that you should be careful about the foods you eat. Make sure you pack rehydration salts, as vomiting and diarrhoea can leave you dangerously dehydrated. Peppermint or camomile tea are very soothing on the stomach and can help ease nausea.
And drink plenty of water: in hot climates, our bodies use up water far more quickly so it’s important to drink more than perhaps you would usually.
Long flights can cause uncomfortable and swollen ankles in some people. Remove tight socks and footwear when you are flying and regularly rotate the ankles. The atmosphere in planes can lead to dehydration and salty in-flight meals and snacks don’t help. Make sure you drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
The herb Cleavers is great for fluid retention as it helps to accelerate lymphatic drainage. It’s a good idea to take echinacea to help boost immunity – being cooped up with dozens of people in a confined space for hours with all that stale recycled air can increase the chances of contacting viruses.
Travel sickness can also be an issue; if you are prone to this try taking some ginger capsules or sucking ginger sweets. Lastly, don’t forget to pack some antibacterial hand wipes.