How to keep healthy on your holidays

15 August 2021

A beach with dozens of blue deckchairs and blue and white striped parasolsHaving the opportunity to let go for a while and recharge the batteries is one of the main reasons why people go on holiday. But letting go too much and finding you’ve brought back new health issues or a bigger waistline with you, often takes away from the relaxing time you had and creates new stresses for you to deal with once you’re home again.

Here are a few tips to help you stay healthy on your holidays:

Go with your gut

Your stomach may be sensitive to foods and water from other countries as they may be carrying bacteria you’re not be used to. Before you take off, take a daily probiotic and continue having them while you are away to reduce the impact new foods may have on your gut.

Avoiding travel sickness

If store bought travel sickness tablets don’t work for you, speak to your GP or nurse about higher prescription strength medicines. When in a plane or a boat, stick as close to the middle of it as you can be as this area has the least amount of motion. Also when in a plane, a boat or a car, try and be near a window where you can focus on the horizon, or sleep if you can.

Eating too much

It’s so easy to give in to the plentiful food found on holiday and want to try everything in front of you, but by keeping your head grounded and sticking with smaller portions and making sure you add in plenty of fruit, vegetables and greens to your plate, you’ll feel more energised for it. Eating slowly helps you to notice when you’re getting full too, life is usually far too jam-packed to find the time to eat slowly, but on holiday there’s much more time to be mindful of what you’re eating while you’re eating it to enjoy the taste and texture of the food and give it more time to reach the stomach to tell you when you’re full.

Drinking too much

Just like food, it’s easy to get carried away with drinking too much alcohol on holiday. You might think you can only really let your hair down with a cocktail, beer or glass of bubbly in each hand, but with hidden calorie counts of anywhere up to 800 calories for some alcoholic drinks (a time, that’s not even multiple drinks), is it really worth it? Too much alcohol on holiday can have an adverse reaction to the heart too. ‘Holiday heart’ refers to the abnormal rhythm the heart takes on after drinking too much and most often occurs while on holiday. Stick to the recommended 14 units per week and you can still enjoy a glass or two without the holiday heart (or the hangover).

Not drinking enough

Keep hydrated with plenty of water. Whether you’re keeping active or not, staying hydrated is important. We often mistake thirst for hunger, so if you’re going to snack, pick foods that are high in water such as watermelon, cucumber, lettuce and strawberries. Keep a bottle of water on you, drink from it often and top it up often to keep your water levels up. Keeping hydrated also helps to minimise the risk of clots forming, especially on long-haul flights or when lounging by the pool.

Keeping your hands away from your face

We use our hands to feel our way around life. We use them to hold onto banisters to keep us steady, to open doors for us, to wipe ourselves with tissue after going to the toilet, to scratch an itch on our bodies and to eat our food with. Our hands carry a lot of germs and if we don’t wash them often enough or properly, there’s a lot of ways those germs can make it inside our bodies and make us ill. This is true of every day and most definitely while we are on holiday. Before you put your hands anywhere near your eyes, nose, mouth or genitals wash them thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitiser gel to kill the germs. If you do get ill while away, drink plenty of fluids and eat simple foods like bananas to regain some of your strength.

Don’t burn baby burn

Every instance of sunburn increases your risk of developing skin cancer. Sun cream should be applied thirty minutes before you step outside to give it time to soak in and start working. Reapply every four hours and after swimming and sweating. If you do burn, after sun with added ibuprofen helps reduce the sting. If you don’t have any after sun, try applying cold milk, yoghurt or cold tea to the burn.

These bugs bite

Depending on where you are visiting around the world, bug bites can range from itchy and painful to life-threatening (though this is incredibly rare). To avoid most bugs you should use insect repellent sprays on your skin and clothing, wear long layers if possible, and light some insecticide candles and purchase a mosquito net treated with insecticide for night time. Carry a tick removal tool or tweezers to remove any ticks as quickly as you can. Wash any general bites or stings with soap and water, and apply a cold compress for ten minutes before gently rubbing on some antihistamine cream or gel. Seek medical help should you believe the bite to be poisonous or be infected.

Keeping active

You may have managed to bag the best sun lounger on site but staying horizontal for hours on end is seriously not good for you. Plan some active days to keep you moving, go for a swim, go for a hike, pack your sportswear and go get your sweat on.

Avoiding STIs

Holiday makers who have unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with a new partner are at risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections including HIV, genital warts, chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhoea. While most STIs are treatable, some can cause serious health problems if left untreated. Always ask a new sexual partner when they were last checked for STIs, always use a condom to limit the risk of contracting an STI, and avoid having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs as people under the influence often fail to have safe sex.

Getting enough sleep

We want to make the most of our time away, but partying all night and sightseeing all day will only lead to exhaustion by the time you reach the end of your holiday. Do a little of both but not every day and not every night. If you’re going out at night, take naps during the day, if you have a full-on day of activities, get an early night.

Don’t swim with contact lenses in

There are microorganisms in water that can cause infections in your eyes leading to pain, visual impairment and in some cases blindness. So whether you are swimming in the sea, a lake, a pool, a hot tub or just in the shower, take out your lenses and never rinse them in tap water either.

Learn the lingo

If you can’t speak the language of the country you are visiting, learn how to explain about your medical condition and your medicines in that language. Have it all written on a few pieces of paper dotted within different bags and wallets so you always have it with you in case of an emergency.