When the time comes for you to leave the practice for your well-earned summer break, it’s important to make sure you only come back with a relaxed smile and glowing tan. Accidents, injuries and bugs could affect more than just your time away, and some can have a long-lasting impact on your health, preventing you from returning to work. A little preparation could help minimise the risks for you and your family, allowing you all to return refreshed.
As soon as the schools break up roads become even busier, full of distracted drivers, leading to an increase in traffic jams and accidents. So much so that one Saturday in late July - found to be the worst of the year - has been dubbed ‘black Saturday’ by many car insurers. And it’s not limited to that weekend either as surprisingly there are 20 per cent more road traffic accidents in July and August than in the winter.1
In 2018 we paid over £80,000 to dentists who were off work because of road traffic accidents, over £40,000 for bicycle related traffic accidents and over £50,000 for winter snow related accidents.1a
Over the summer the media seems full of stories of unfortunate British holidaymakers injured from balcony falls in Spain or motorcycle accidents in Vietnam.2 In 2017 a survey revealed that Spain was the worst place for us Brits to get ill and France was one of the worst for us having a car accident.3a The problem is we all assume our holiday will go smoothly. You may even think ‘what could possibly go wrong’ in a villa in the south of France? However, it is the unfortunate reality that thousands of British travellers have accidents abroad every year, many resulting in urgent medical attention being needed.3 Last year a member of Dentists’ Provident had to take a month off work due to post traumatic stress following an accident.1a
Some of the most common accidents on a summer European holiday3 include swimming pool accidents - hitting your head on the bottom of the pool or slipping and breaking your arm for example, so caution is required; sports injuries - it is important to check the qualifications of the staff and the condition of the equipment they are proposing you’ll use. If you are in any doubt then the advice is to walk away; road accidents - different road systems could mean potential dangers and when driving in continental Europe, most car insurance companies want you to carry a green card (which you can obtain from them for free) showing you’re insured as well as your insurance documents;4a food poisoning - no matter how careful you are, undercooked or reheated food, especially meat, or salad or raw vegetables washed in unclean water can be contaminated resulting in a debilitating stomach bug. Should this happen to you, do make sure you get a clear diagnosis to ensure you get the correct treatment.4
In case of any of these incidents, it is important to check that your European Health Insurance Card (formally known as an E111) is in date before you go, as with it in most European countries you can receive free or partially funded healthcare (although this may not continue to be available when we leave the EU).5
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) website is extremely helpful and provides a country by country section that gives comprehensive and up-to-date advice, potential health, environmental and terrorist risks and details of the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. In 2015/16 the FCO supported over 23,000 British nationals including nearly 3,500 hospitalisations.6
The FCO also have a pre-holiday checklist,7 some of which may seem obvious but it’s easy to overlook certain considerations when you are rushing to pack. Their list includes getting comprehensive travel and medical insurance, including extra activities such as horse riding or SCUBA diving where you chose to participate; checking your passport is valid for at least six months after your return date; making a note of your passport number or taking a photo of it; taking several methods of payment with you, including local currency, credit and debit cards; making yourself aware of the rules of the road and that your license is valid for any countries you are planning to drive in and being careful when taking photos or videos as local authorities may not like it, especially if you are near military structures or religious sites.
Taking a few minutes to make sure you are prepared for any known local risks while you are away can go a long way to ensuring that your well-earned break isn’t spoilt by unwelcome incidences, or that you are prevented from being able to work when you get home.
References available on request.
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