Preventing holiday horrors

12 July 2017 | Blog
Preventing holiday horrors

When the time comes for you to leave the surgery and step foot on your well-earned summer break, it’s worth taking the time to make sure you only bring back a relaxed smile and a glowing tan. Accidents, injuries, bugs or infections 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 when you get back. A little preparation before you leave could help minimise the risks for you and your family, allowing you all to return refreshed at the end of your break.

Most common holiday accidents

At home…

Bear in mind that as soon as the schools break up, roads become even busier, full of distracted drivers wishing to get away and leading to an increase in both 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 following the surprisingly news that there are nearly 30 per cent more road traffic accidents in the summer than there are in winter.1 

In 2016 we paid over £120,000 to dentists who were off work because of road traffic accidents and over £500,000 in total for a range of sporting and other accidents at home and abroad.

And away…

Over the summer the media seems full of stories of unfortunate British holidaymakers injured from balcony falls in Spain or victims of motorcycle accidents on the roads of Vietnam. The problem is we all assume our holiday will go smoothly, without any such incidents ruining our time off.2 You may even be thinking 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 the need for urgent medical attention.3 While it’s not the cheeriest of thoughts, especially when we spend months looking forward to our holiday, but being both aware of, and prepared for, any potential risks could mean the difference between returning glowing in the warmth of a relaxed, incident free break or suffering an unnecessary illness or injury that could take days, weeks or even months to fully recover from.

The most common accidents on a summer European holiday are-3

  • Swimming pool accidents - diving into the shallow end of the pool and hitting your head or breaking your arm are more common accidents than you may think, as is slipping over on a wet poolside surface, so it’s important to be cautious at all times
  • Sports Injuries - water sports and dedicated sporting holidays are now offered by many travel companies, so it’s tempting to have a go at a new sport. But do remember to not only check the qualifications of the staff involved but also the condition, fit and suitability of the equipment offered to you

If you don’t feel confident or are in doubt about the venue’s experience in offering these experiences, then the advice is to walk away and look elsewhere, as an accident could risk your ability to return to work in one piece.3

A member of Dentists’ Provident in their 20s went rock climbing and ended up off work for a month with a broken foot and ruptured knee ligaments.

  • Road accidents - encountering different road systems and signage, as well as effectively managing other road users with ‘different driving styles’ can mean your experience of driving abroad is full of potential dangers. And even if you aren’t doing the driving yourself, do you ever check the car or the license of the driver before your family climbs aboard?
  • Food Poisoning - no matter how careful you are, sometimes food poisoning is unavoidable. Undercooked or reheated food, especially meat, or salad or raw vegetables washed in unclean water can be contaminated with harmful microbes, toxins or chemicals resulting in a debilitating stomach bug that could leave you or your family with a relatively serious illness during your holiday, as well as possibly when you’re returning home. Campylobacter is the most common bacterium causing food poisoning in the UK, but others encountered here and abroad include salmonella, E-coli, listeria and shigella. Some viruses, such as norovirus, can also cause food poisoning. The most common complication of food poisoning, especially in a warm climate, is dehydration and this can have its own serious impact on your health in the short term. In the longer term, it is important to make sure you get a diagnosis on the bacterium as quickly as possible, as sometimes only specific medicines or antibiotics will kill it, allowing you to start your recovery. This, of course, can take some time, and if you wait until you return home before sending samples off, having tests and waiting for results before you can start to treat the illness, your recover time could take considerably longer4

It’s important to check that your European Health Insurance Card (formally known as an E111) isn’t out of date, as in most European countries you can be treated by their free or partially funded healthcare system. It could take up to two years for us to negotiate our exit from the EU, so we may not have this service after that. However, we have the facility available to us now and it might still be valid if we stay in the EEA as non-EU countries like Iceland can currently use them.5

Further afield…

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website is extremely helpful and provides comprehensive and up-to-date advice on what to look out for in specific countries, as well as providing details of the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission, for you to make a note of before you travel.

Their country by country detail can be a daunting read and could well put you off, however they do highlight potential health, environmental and terrorist risks, so it is worth at least having that knowledge before you go. Sri Lanka, for example, has dengue fever, so being cautious with mosquito repellent is essential, as is being aware of the times of year for dangerous tides, tropical cyclones and monsoons.6 Other risks to be aware of include the Philippines authorities reporting the existence of potential kidnapping attempts on the Sulu Sea and warning travellers and locals alike to stay away.7 Another example is Cuba who, in addition to Brazil and other south American countries, has been identified as also having a risk of the Zika virus.8

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website have also put together a pre-holiday checklist, some of which may seem obvious but it’s easy to overlook certain important considerations when you are rushing to pack for your break. Their list includes the following reminders.9

  1. Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance that includes cover for any medical conditions you currently have, as well as for any activities you plan to undertake while you are away, such as horse riding or SCUBA diving.
  2. The number to call the emergency services in any EU country, 112.
  3. Take extra medication for any pre-existing conditions with you and carry it on you, not in your checked baggage.
  4. Check with your mobile network provider to make sure your phone works abroad.
  5. Find out if you need vaccinations and/or visas well in advance of your leaving date.
  6. Check your passport is valid for at least six months after your return date.
  7. Make a note of your passport number and take photocopies, as well as storing copies on a secure online site.
  8. Leave details of your holiday destination with someone back home.
  9. Take several methods of payment with you, including local currency, credit and debit cards, but only ever carry a small amount of cash; keeping all valuables hidden.
  10. Make yourself aware of the rules of the road before you get behind the wheel, and make sure that your license is valid for any countries you are planning to drive in.
  11. Be careful when taking photos or videos, as local authorities may not like it, especially if you are near military areas or religious sites.
  12. Check the HM Customs and Revenue website for information on what you can and can't bring back with you such as duty-free limits and banned items.
  13. Don’t take risks that you wouldn’t accept if you were in the UK. Read their advice for the countries you are travelling to so you can minimise these potential risks.

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 practise when you get home.

Bon voyage.

 References available on request.

This article is intended for information only. It is not designed to give financial or medical advice, nor is it intended to make any recommendations of the suitability of our plans for a particular individual. Full details of our contract can be found in our rules on our website www.dentistsprovident.co.uk. Dentists’ Provident Society Limited does not accept liability and responsibility for changes made to this information. Some of the information in this article has been obtained from third parties. While we believe the information to be reliable; we make no representations as to its accuracy and accept no responsibility or liability for any error, omission or inaccuracy in the data supplied by any third party.

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