Tips on staying healthy this summer
The last thing anyone wants on their summer holiday is to get ill. But in the lead up to a holiday, it can be easy to spend more time thinking about the latest season's fashion, getting the best exchange rate or making sure that the pets will be well looked after. It may not seem important at the time, but having a quick chat with your pharmacist before you go on holiday can help to avoid some of the most common illnesses that can spoil your holiday. Leyla Hannbeck, Head of Information Services at the National Pharmacy Association shares some tips on how to stay healthy this summer.
People often suffer with diarrhoea and sickness on holiday because they have consumed contaminated food or water. Follow the simple rule 'cook it, boil it, peel it or leave it' while you're on your holiday. Stomach upsets can also be caused by bad hygiene so make sure that you wash your hands thoroughly before preparing or eating food.
Pharmacy tips: Take some re-hydration sachets with you in your first aid kit just in case you have a stomach bug. These will stop you from getting dehydrated. You can also ask your pharmacist about anti-diarrhoea pills.
Deep vein Thrombosis:
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) happens when a blood clot forms in one of the body's deep veins. This tends to happen when a person has been inactive for a period of time, as blood collects in the lower parts of the body, particularly in the lower legs. Every year, DVT affects one in every 1,000 people in the UK but there things you can do to reduce your changes of getting it. For example, when you're on a long journey, try to do leg and calf exercises every half hour or try to walk around. You can also help by wearing loose clothing from the waist down and making sure that you are drinking plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated.
Pharmacy tips: If you're worried about DVT, ask your pharmacist about compression socks.
If you take a regular medicine, make sure you have enough for your holiday. If you do run out of your medicine while you're on holiday in the UK or you lose your medicine, go to a pharmacy as they may be able to sell you an emergency supply. There are some drugs however that a pharmacist will be unable to give you. These are called controlled drugs and include medicines like benzodiazepines and morphine. If you run out of these medicines, your pharmacist can refer you to a local doctor for more advice. The best advice is plan ahead and while on holiday, keep your medicine in a safe and secure place.
Pharmacy tips: If you take a medicine for a long term condition, ask your pharmacist about repeat dispensing. This is a free service which helps to save you time as when you need another supply of medicine, you just pick it up from your pharmacy instead of having to visit your GP for another prescription.
Over the counter medicines:
When you're on holiday abroad, you may notice that medicines look different to how they do back home. This is because medicines have a generic name, which is the active ingredient of the medicine, and they have a brand name, which is the trade name the manufacturer gives to the medicine. For example, Viagra is the well known brand name given to the generic medicine sildenafil. If you cannot find your normal brand in the pharmacy while you're on holiday, don't worry, the pharmacist in the UK will be able to find you something that contains the same active ingredient.
Pharmacy tips: Try to stock up on holiday essentials like anti-sickness remedies, plasters and painkillers before you go on holiday. Be careful though! There are restrictions on taking certain medicines into another country, for example it is against the law to take medicines containing the painkiller codeine into the United Arab Emirates or Greece. Ask your pharmacist for more advice.
Be careful when packing:
There are new regulations on what you're allowed to take as hand luggage so check with your flight operator before you travel to avoid any nasty surprises. Prescription medicines will also be subject to verification, although they may be allowed to exceed the 100ml limit placed on liquid toiletries and cosmetics. If you do need to take medicine with you, let your airline know as soon as possible. You'll need to carry documentation to identify the medicine, obtained from a relevant qualified medical professional (your GP is best).
Pharmacy tips: Taking a translation of the documents will help avoid any problems on the return flight if your destination is not English-speaking (especially outside of Europe).
Your pharmacist can give you advice on available remedies as well as giving tips on how to prevent travel sickness, such as ensuring there is good ventilation and encouraging children who suffer with travel sickness to look out of the window instead of playing games or reading books as this can make it worse.
Pharmacy tips: Alcohol should be avoided while taking travel sickness tablets and the tablets may interact with other medicines you may be taking, so ask your pharmacist for advice on the best product for you.
Sunburn is something that you should definitely not have to suffer with on holiday. Visit your pharmacy before you go to make sure that you have the correct sunscreen for your holiday. It is recommended that an adult wears a sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF15 and for a child, SPF30. It will of course depend on where you're travelling to so ask your pharmacist for advice. You should apply sunscreen liberally before going out in the sun and make sure you reapply it every couple of hours throughout the day. Also, try to stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest between 11am and 3pm. If you do get sunburn, cover the area immediately to prevent further damage. A cool shower can also help, as can applying after sun. If your skin starts to feel itchy a few days later and you start to peel, use a moisturiser. You can of course avoid all of this by making sure you apply sunscreen and stay in the shade.
Pharmacy tips: Don't be fooled by a cloudy sky! Just because you cannot see the sun, doesn't mean that it won't be causing damage to the skin.
Don't forget your anti-malarials:
It only takes one bite to become infected with malaria so make sure you take malaria prevention seriously. The type of antimalarial you need will depend on a number of factors including where you are going, your medical history, your age and whether you are pregnant. Ask your pharmacist for advice.
Pharmacy tips: Unfortunately, no anti-malarial tablets and travel vaccines are 100% effective so it is essential to use other bite-avoidance precautions such as mosquito nets to go around your bed, skin repellents and plug in vaporisers.
If you take regular medicines and will be travelling across different time zones, speak to your pharmacy before you go away as you may need to alter the way you take your medicine. For example, if you take the progesterone only pill, most only have a three hour window before the dose is classed as being missed so you may want to continue to take your pill using UK time or gradually adjust the dose by no more than three hours at a time so it fits in with your holiday destination time. Patients with epilepsy should be advised that if they need to adjust their dosing schedule, this should be done gradually until a convenient dosage regimen has been established. The Epilepsy Society advises that this should be done with guidance from the patient's GP.
Pharmacy tips: Travelling across time zones can also cause jet lag. You can help lessen the effects of jet lag by making sure that you're hydrated and avoiding alcohol and caffeine which can disturb sleep.
Know your limits
If you're going on an all inclusive holiday, try to eat and drink as sensibly as you can. Overeating can cause a whole range of symptoms including heartburn, ingestion, nausea and constipation and over-drinking can of course cause the dreaded hangover. After you have eaten, try not to lie down right after you've had something to eat and if you really have to, use a couple of pillows so you sleep in a more upright position. Over-the-counter painkillers can help with headaches and muscle aches caused by over-drinking. Paracetamol-based remedies are usually preferable as aspirin may further irritate the stomach and increase nausea and sickness.
Pharmacy tips: The best way to avoid a hangover of course is not to drink but if you do, drink sensibly and try to keep within the recommended limit (men, 3 -4 units per day and women 2-3.) Try to eat lots of carbohydrates as this will help to slow down the body's absorption of alcohol. Before you sleep, drink a pint or so of water and keep a glass of water by the bed to sip if you wake during the night.
Must haves for a holiday health kit:
Eye drops can help to replenish moisture after the humidity of aeroplanes especially if you wear contact lenses.
Painkillers can be used to treat back pain and headaches. They can also be used to treat high temperatures in children
Ear drops can help to treat the symptoms of ear infections - particularly common with children using swimming pools
Make sure you have a good supply of plasters, wound dressings and antiseptic creams for minor scrapes and falls.
For more information on what your local pharmacy can offer, visit askyourpharmacist.co.uk.