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Avoid Holiday Health Hell

Charles Flynn




New research released by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) today

reveals 81% of Brits fall ill while on holiday – and many of them risk taking overseas

medications without understanding the instructions, possible side-effects or dosage.

The majority of holiday-makers have experienced common ailments like sunburn, insect bites,

headache, upset stomach or diarrhoea while abroad. Despite this, most spend about £95 on

new swimming costumes, clothes and make-up in preparation for their trip, but less than £20

on basic healthcare items like pain killers, sun cream, insect repellent and condoms – products

all readily available in pharmacies.

Topping the list of holiday spoilers is sunburn, with half of all holiday-makers (49% of women

and 57% men) suffering the easily prevented discomfort.

A third (31%) have experienced diarrhoea and 43% suffered with an upset stomach. Almost

one in five (17%) have experienced cold and flu symptoms and motion sickness.

The irritation of insect bites affected more than half, and 18% were struck down with a bout of

vomiting. One in 20 have had infected wounds while abroad.

David Pruce, RPSGB Director of Practice and Quality Improvement, said: “It’s understandable

that people going on holiday don’t think about their healthcare needs, but travelling abroad can

expose you to health risks that don’t pose the same threat at home. By going away

unprepared, you risk your family ending up in holiday hell



“Pharmacists can advise you of the dangers and provide useful tips on how to keep your family

healthy on holiday. They are a fantastic one-stop-shop resource – aside from being able to buy

your holiday healthcare items, you can also access free, expert advice, without the need to

make an appointment.

“Making a quick trip to the pharmacy to organise your holiday health needs can make a big

difference to what kind of holiday you have – helping ensure you and your family stay well.

Pharmacies often operate outside normal opening hours and are located on the high streets,

so you could easily pop in and sort out a healthcare kit while shopping for a new swimming





Research was carried out online by YouGov from 29 May – 2 June 2008. The total sample size

was 2,197 adults. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults

(aged 18+).

The survey shows that 53% of Brits abroad have suffered from sunburn (49% women versus

57% men), a third (31%) experienced a bout of diarrhoea, 43% have suffered with an upset

stomach, and almost one in five (17%) have experienced cold and flu symptoms and motion

sickness. Over half have endured the irritation of insect bites, whilst a poorly 18% have

experienced a vomiting bug and one in 20 have had infected wounds while abroad.

The research reveals that seven out of 10 people have bought medication abroad to treat their

condition or illness, and:

• One in 10 18–25 year olds claim to have guessed the dosage

• One in 10 said they did not fully understand the healthcare professional they spoke to

• 20% of people bought medication off the shelf without seeking professional advice

• 28% bought medication abroad as they thought they recognised the packaging

• One in 20 bought medication without professional advice as they were in a hurry

• Almost one in 10 (8%) admitted that they were unaware of the possible side-effects of

the medication they bought

• One in 12 people took medication without understanding the possible side-effects

• One in 20 didn’t finish the course of medication once they returned home


So please contact your local pharmacist.


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