Happy holidays

It’s holiday time. Glorious sunny days and balmy evenings beckon as we settle into summer.

Some people may have got deals to die for and will manage to get an overseas break despite the credit crunch. Others may be planning to soak up the sun and recharge their batteries closer to home in familiar surroundings.

Whatever your holiday destination a little careful planning will ensure you get the most from your break.

Stay safe

* Sun safety should be a top priority. Heed the Australian health promotion message - “slip, slop, slap” - which offers good advice for anyone holidaying anywhere hot. “Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen and slap on a hat.”

Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 at least 20 minutes before going outside. Re-apply at least every two hours, more often if swimming or perspiring

* On very hot days you should avoid exposure to the sun’s rays between midday and 2pm, the hours when the sun is highest in the sky.

* UV light from the sun can cause eye damage. Wear well fitting sunglasses (wraparound shades are a good choice ) with a high UV block to protect against the most damaging rays.

* Wear T-shirts (with sleeves and high collars ) and long shorts

* Try to keep young babies out of the sun altogether and make sure children are well covered with sunscreen

* Wear light coloured, tightly woven protective clothing with wide brimmed hats (three inch brim )

* If you get sunburned avoid further exposure and apply lots of after sun lotion

* In warm weather it is possible to get dehydrated quickly. In normal circumstances our bodies can lose up to three litres of water a day and this can double or even treble in hot weather. We need to replace not just fluid but vital salts and sugar when we become dehydrated. People exercising or playing sport in hot conditions should drink plenty of water. If the temperature is very high you could consider making your own isotonic drink. A litre of water in a bottle with a teaspoonful of sugar and half a teaspoonful of salt will allow you to replace the right combination of water, sugar and salt to prevent heat exhaustion.

* When swimming in lakes, rivers or the sea never swim alone. At the seaside, try to swim where there are lifeguards and be careful of currents or freak waves which can occur in heavy seas

* If going on an activity holiday make sure there are safety procedures in place, eg, check if there are lifeguards on the beach or at the swimming pool and if you are boating or windsurfing wear a lifejacket.

Travelling abroad

Crossing several time zones disrupts your body’s natural rhythm of eating and sleeping. The result is a combination of fatigue, disorientation, indigestion, headaches and insomnia, collectively called jet lag.

How to prevent jet lag

* Three nights before going on holiday, change your bedtime. If you are travelling east go to bed one hour earlier for each time zone you will cross. If you are travelling west, go to bed one hour later.

* During the flight avoid sleeping pills, alcohol and caffeine. Drink plenty of water or juices to avoid dehydration.

* If you arrive at your destination during the day plan to spend some time outdoors. Try to expose yourself to as many hours of daylight as possible.

* Do not go to bed until evening.

Motion sickness

Motion sickness has been described as the “hangover you do not deserve”. Symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, pallor and sweating.

How to prevent it on a plane

* Request a seat over the wings. Avoid sitting in the tail section.

* Open the overhead vents and direct air to your face

On land transport

* Fix your gaze on the scenery straight ahead, not to the side

* Offer to drive. The person at the wheel never gets motion sickness.

When to seek medical attention

You may manage minor medical problems without the need for a doctor. However, the following symptoms call for for medical attention.

* Fever over 101 degrees for more than two days

* Severe vomiting and diarrhoea

* Abdominal or chest pains

* Difficulty breathing

* Fainting

* Slurred speech

* Feelings of disorientation

* Severe weakness

How to prevent travel related deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis is a condition in which blood clots develop in the deep veins of the leg after periods of inactivity. A possible link has been made between DVT and long periods of sitting during long haul air travel. The danger of the condition is that a small blood clot can travel from the leg to the lungs causing a condition known as pulmonary embolus (PE ). This can be fatal if not recognised and treated early.

DVT is commoner among older people, those with heart failure and people who have a problem with blood clotting. It can also occur in women taking the contraceptive pill, who are pregnant or who recently had a baby.

It typically causes swelling, pain and redness of one leg, particularly in the calf area. If a DVT develops during a flight it may only show up after some days. It is rare to get PE, say experts, but if it does complicate a DVT, it may be recognised by breathlessness, chest pain and even collapse. Both conditions require urgent investigation and treatment.

The good news is that DVT can be prevented on long haul flights and long bus journeys.

Before the trip

* Contact your family doctor if you have any of the risk factors described above.

During the trip

* Make sure you are sitting as comfortably as possible

* Bend and straighten your legs, feet and toes every half hour or so

* Upper body and breathing exercises help to improve circulation

* Take short walks in the aisle of the aeroplane when the seat belt sign is switched off

* Drink plenty of water and only a moderate amount of alcohol - it can cause dehydration which may increase the likelihod of DVT

After the trip

* Go back to your normal routine

* Be aware that symptoms may develop days after your flight

* Contact a local doctor or hospital urgently if you develop a swollen leg or have difficulty breathing

Tummy upsets

Many people who travel abroad experience tummy upsets. It may be that their systems are not used to certain foods.

However, very often it is because the level of hygiene is not as high as it should be in many countries.

When abroad, take care with what you eat and drink:

* Avoid drinking tap water

* Avoid eating salads and shellfish

* Avoid fruit and vegetables which cannot be peeled

* Eat in restaurants which look hygienic

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