Mail & Guardian

Good health makes for good holidays

09 Dec 2011 00:00 | Sponsored Feature

With the holiday season on us, the last thing you need is to have your break marred by illness or injury. So here are a few tips to help you to enjoy a carefree trip.

If you are travelling long distances by aeroplane or car, be aware of deep-vein thrombosis, a clotting of the blood in the deeper veins, usually in the calves. It can be avoided by exercising every hour or so by lifting your feet and rotating your ankles. Wear loose clothing and avoid too much alcohol, tea and coffee on long flights because they can cause dehydration. Instead, drink plenty of water or fruit juice.

If you are travelling in Africa or any tropical areas, ensure you are up to date with all the necessary vaccinations. If children are travelling with you, ensure that they have had all their shots, including those for hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio.

Other vaccinations that are highly recommended include those for hepatitis A, meningococcal meningitis, rabies, tuberculosis and typhoid. Bear in mind that some vaccinations need to be taken well in advance of your trip, so plan accordingly.

If you are travelling to an area where malaria is endemic, which means most of sub-Saharan Africa, visit your doctor or a travel clinic a few weeks before you travel for a prescription for an appropriate prophylactic. While you are in the malaria area, protect yourself by wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts at dawn and dusk. Use a fan or an air conditioner in your room, and spray it with an appropriate insect repellent. Avoid wearing perfume or aftershave because the fragrance attracts mosquitoes. They are also attracted by lights, so switch them off before you sleep, which you should do under a net.

Insect bites and stings are always common in the bush. Remove the sting with tweezers and apply an ice pack to the area, followed by calamine lotion for more relief. If the sting victim shows signs of breathing difficulties, or breaks out in welts or swellings, take the person to a doctor immediately because he or she may be having an allergic reaction.

If you are travelling to an area where the purity of the water is suspect, drink bottled water only. Also use it when brushing your teeth and avoid ice cubes in your drinks. Wash your hands often with a bar of antibacterial soap, which you should pack in your bag. Also pack an antibacterial cleanser that does not require water.

Food poisoning or gastroenteritis, sometimes referred to as traveller's diarrhoea, is a common ailment when people eat foods that may not be familiar.

The symptoms include diarrhoea, vomiting and abdominal cramps and pains. Make sure you drink plenty of liquids, because diarrhoea can dehydrate you quickly if left unchecked. If you do not have access to oral rehydration salts, you can make your own simply by boiling one litre of water, allowing it to cool before adding a teaspoon of salt and a cup of sugar.

In sunny weather, ensure that everyone wears a hat and be liberal with the sunblock and creams on exposed skin -- and drink plenty of fluids. Be aware of heat stroke, when body temperature becomes abnormally elevated. The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headaches, confusion and dizziness. It is a medical emergency that needs to be treated immediately. While you are waiting for emergency services, ensure that the person is in shade and cool them down with cold water, ice or a wet towel.

Holidays should be about fun and relaxation and forgetting about the stresses and worries of everyday life. So do not ruin your break because you are unprepared for the holiday health woes. Plan for them.

Holiday health will be the topic of Bonitas House Call on December 17 at 9am on SABC2

This article originally appeared in the Mail & Guardian newspaper as a sponsored feature

View the original online publication here