Dealing with Holiday Illness or Sickness Abroad or When You Return to the UK!

This year we have already heard from returning holidaymakers about their holiday illness or sickness experience!  Many are reporting that they have suffered an initial 3 to 4 days sickness, a slight recovery and continuing problems when they return to the UK!  Some holidaymakers have reported to us that they have been subsequently diagnosed with diseases such as Salmonella, E-Coli or Shigella!  Many report that they were not alone in suffering with illness in their hotel, resort or cruise ship!  We are concerned that holidaymakers are suffering an 'imposed' isolation, on the pretext that what they are suffering with is a 'contagious' virus, when often the 'virus' has been repeated week after week and no apparent tests are carried out to assure that nothing more sinister is the cause of the illness!  We take the very firm view that 'introducing' holidaymakers into a hotel, resort or cruise ship, where there is clear knowledge that a pathogen or virus threatens the very health of the intending holidaymaker, should be dealt with under the full force of the law!  This issue came into sharp focus earlier this year when several outbreaks of holiday illness were reported; we restated our views that BioHazard & BioCrime offences should be considered by legislators!  At the time our views were considered to be 'alarmist', we responded through our YouTube Channel in order to open up this debate!

Whilst the debate rages on how to deal with holiday illness and the claims that must surely follow, it is timely to consider the issues that affect holidaymakers.  In this article we shall set out the key areas for consideration:

  1. Before you travel, seek country advices on what you might expect to find in terms of health risks.  The National Travel Health & Network Centre is a good place to start; it sets out the health requirements and current risks on a country by country basis.  Remember to immunise before travel; failure to do so could prevent your entry into your intended destination - seek the advices of your GP!  The NHS website is a good source of information on travel health and provides a good link to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - an essential item to pack, as it will provide either free or reduced costs for medical treatment within the European Union!  Remember, you should always take out travel insurance from the moment you book your holiday (many holidaymakers do not and when they have to cancel their holiday because of health problems, they find that they have difficulties in getting their money back!).  Travel Insurance is also important, even if you have an EHIC card, as it could potentially cover any shortfall you may suffer if you need medical treatment!
  2. Resist 'advices' within travel review websites that state that UK medicines do not work!  Some countries may have products that 'work' for so-called gastrointestinal problems, but some of those medications are also banned within Western Countries!  This travel review offering so-called health advice to Egypt is one such example.  It demonstrates interesting comments on how to avoid holiday sickness (we have heard of holidaymakers being advised that the reason they became ill was because they handled the money!) - the review also demonstrates the widespread use of a medicine not licensed in the UK!  References are also sometimes made to lower standards in food and how these should be accepted - we do not accept that position!  Many of the complaints we receive, reflect a poor standard of hygiene leading to a poor quality of food presentation which leads to outbreaks of serious illness, some lasting a lifetime!  The simple rule is by all means read other peoples opinions, but prepare for your holiday health by understanding your own health requirements and the requirements and risks of your host country by reference to relevant health sources!
  3. Once you have identified the appropriate level of information before you travel, you should consider creating your own 'First Aid Travel Kit'!  We would suggest that you include:  Any medication that you are normally required to take (check with the Embassy of the Country that you intend to travel to to ensure that you will be allowed to bring it with you - make sure that you provide/obtain the necessary documentation to carry it with you - there is an argument that you should check before you book your holiday and again before you travel!), Gastrointestinal medication that suits your body, Antihistamine medication that suits your body, Salt Replacement Tablets, Cough/Flu medication, Sting and Antiseptic creams and ointments, Bandages/Plasters (similar to what you would find in a first aid kit), if you are travelling to a long-haul destination you should consider bringing your own needles and syringes (your GP should be able to guide you).
  4. To understand fully the range of illnesses you may encounter, you should read our section Holiday Illness and Infection.
  5. If you become ill whilst in your hotel, resort or cruise ship, speak to your representative, establish if they are aware of other holidaymakers who are ill.  Make a note of the time and day and person you speak to and their comments.
  6. If you are not happy with the representatives response, then speak to other holidaymakers, find out what is happening to them - use our 12 Golden Rules of Travel to deal with your travel complaints!
  7. If you are 'required' to be isolated by the hotel, resort or cruise ship because you are ill, request in writing the reasons for your isolation and confirmation of the nature of the illness requiring that isolation;
  8. If you are 'offered' or 'required' to provide a stool sample test, request in writing, the reason for the stool sample, the diseases tested, where the test will be carried out, the name and address of the laboratory and a copy of the request - receipt - result of the test!  Ask what is happening to your sample and how it will be destroyed.  Seek written confirmation that the sample has been destroyed and that no sample, record or result has been provided to the travel provider - even if they have paid for the sample!
  9. If medical treatment is required and you are not sure about what is proposed, speak to your GP - unless of course that treatment is required as a matter of urgency!
  10. If you need medication or have a prescription, ensure that the dispensing pharmacist is appropriately qualified (one of our articles raises our concerns on this important point!);
  11. Always follow good appropriate medical advices if you become ill!
  12. If you have become ill and you have concerns on the food preparation, hygiene standards etc, remember, use the 12 Golden Rules of Travel to try and either resolve your complaints or help you understand how to collate information to deal with your complaints when you return to the UK!
  13. When you return to the UK, even if you consider that you have fully recovered, obtain a stool sample test!  You can either obtain this through your GP or your Local Environmental Health Officer.  This is a simple test and will provide peace of mind or early diagnosis and access to medical treatment!  Do not assume that because you have 'recovered' that in fact you have - we have dealt with many holidaymakers who appear 'symptomless' only to discover that they have in fact acquired a notifiable disease!  We know that work pressures can play a part in this issue; care must always be practised if you work with the elderly, children or within food production!
  14. Even if you have 'recovered' from your holiday illness, make sure that you report any changes to dietary or bowel habits to your GP - this will lead to further consideration to your treatment;
  15. If you decide to make a complaint to your travel provider, do not provide access to medical records or information, if requested, unless you have received appropriate advices!

We hope that this guide will help holidaymakers, but if you have been affected by any of these issues, please contact us at HolidayTravelWatch!

For further information on our services, read our Legal Notice.

Visiting a doctor abroad

We always hope that you have a good holiday and that you return in better health than perhaps you were in before you went! 

Be prepared!

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