When we go on holiday we understandably focus on enjoying ourselves. But when travelling to a new place it’s worth remembering that you are unaccustomed to the food, the water, the climate and the lifestyle and this may make make you more vulnerable to illnesses than you would otherwise be at home.

But there are some simple precautions you can take to help ensure your holiday is a healthy, happy and enjoyable one. We’ll be taking you through some of the most common illnesses that affect tourists and providing information on how to avoid and treat them. (AllClear always recommends you contact your GP or medical practitioner for any personal medical advice.)

Food poisoningSea food

Symptoms and causes of food poisoning:

The most common causes are under cooked meat, unrefrigerated or out-of-date ingredients, and people touching the food without washing their hands. Symptoms include feeling sick, vomiting, stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

How to avoid food poisoning:

Many cases of food poisoning abroad are from all inclusive buffets. Ensure hot food is piping hot and chilled food is properly chilled and each dish has its own serving spoon. You might want to avoid buying meat from street stalls.

How to treat:

If you believe you have contracted food poisoning you should get medical advice. For information on falling sick abroad please visit the NHS healthcare abroad advice page.

The fluflu remedies

Cause and symptoms of the flu:

When you travel to a new place you are more susceptible to the local strains of bacterial or viral infections such as flu. Symptoms include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness).

How to avoid the flu:

Eat well and stay rested to keep your immunity up and wash your hands often.

How to treat: 

Pack paracetamol and  ibuprofen in your luggage (subject to airline restrictions) to ease fever, body aches, or other flu-like symptoms. Try to rest and get plenty of fluids. Seek medical attention if needed.

Legionnaires’ diseaseLegionnaires' disease

Cause and symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease:

Legionnaires’ disease is a respiratory infection that can be a problem on cruise ships or in hotels; it is transmitted by aerosolised air via air conditioning systems. Symptoms include: fever, chills, coughing, muscle aches, headache, tiredness, loss of appetite, loss of coordination, chest pain, or diarrhoea and vomiting, confusion and impaired cognition. (Source: Wikipedia).

How to avoid Legionnaires’ disease:

You can avoid Legionnaires’ disease by ensuring that any water systems in buildings or ships you are staying in are properly maintained and that no recent cases of Legionnaires’ disease have been reported.

How to treat:

Legionnaires’ disease is treated with antibiotics; if you are worried about Legionnaires’ disease you should seek medical advice.

Heat exhaustionSun loungers

Cause and symptoms of heat exhaustion:

Sun bathing or lying in the sun is big part of many of our holidays abroad, but too much exposure to direct sunlight can result in heat exhaustion. Symptoms include tiredness and weakness, feeling faint or dizzy, a decrease in blood pressure, a headache, muscle cramps, feeling and being sick, heavy sweating, intense thirst, a fast pulse, urinating less often and having much darker urine than usual. If left untreated, more severe symptoms of heatstroke can develop, including confusion, disorientation, seizures (fits) and a loss of consciousness.

How to avoid heat exhaustion:

– Reduce your exposure to the sun.
– Avoid physical exertion.
– Wear light cool clothing.
– Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
– Sprinkle water over your skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.
– Keep your environment cool.

How to treat:

– Lie down in a cool place – such as a room with air conditioning or somewhere in the shade.
– Remove any unnecessary clothing to expose as much of their skin as possible.
– Cool skin with whatever you have available, such as a cool wet sponge or flannel, cold packs around the neck and armpits, or wrap them in a cool wet sheet.
– Fan skin while it’s moist – this will help the water to evaporate, which will help their skin cool down.
– Drink fluids – this should ideally be water, fruit juice or a rehydration drink, such as a sports drink.
– Stay with the person until they’re feeling better. Most people should start to recover within 30 minutes.

For more information view the NHS heat exhaustion and heat stroke page.

DiarrhoeaToilet paper

Cause and symptoms of traveller’s diarrhoea:

Travellers’ diarrhoea is one of the most common illnesses in people who travel internationally, and depending on destination affects 20-60% of the more than 800 million travellers each year. In most cases the diarrhoea occurs in people who travel to areas with poor food and water hygiene.

How to avoid traveller’s diarrhoea:

Boil your water or drink only bottled water in countries with poor water sanitation, this includes avoiding ice cubes in your drink! Also follow all the precautions outlined to avoid food poisoning (see above), and wash your hands regularly.

How to treat:

– Stay hydrated and drink rehydrating drinks such as sports drinks to ensure you don’t suffer from loss of electrolytes. Also steer clear of dairy, caffeine and alcohol.
– Only eat bland foods.
– Over the counter medication can ease symptoms.
– If diarrhoea persists for more than three days seek medical advice.

For more information visit Everyday Health.

Insect bitesInsect bite

Cause and symptoms of insect bites:

If you’re travelling to a hot country, particularly one with a tropical climate then you may find insect bites are something you need to take precautions against. Insect bites, although for the most part harmless, can cause irritation of the skin and in some cases an allergic reaction or infection.

How to avoid insect bites:

– Sleep under a mosquito net at night.
– Avoid infested areas.
– Wear clothing that covers the skin.
– Use an insect repellent (DEET insect repellent has been shown be most effective against mosquito bites).

How to treat:

– Avoid scratching the affected area; there are balms available to sooth the irritation of insect bites.
– Wash the affected area with soap and water.
– Place a cold compress (a flannel or cloth cooled with cold water) over the affected area to reduce swelling.
– Wrap an ice pack, such as a bag of frozen peas, in a towel and place it on the swelling.
– Take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
– Use a spray or cream that contains local anesthetic, antihistamine or mild hydrocortisone (1%) on the affected area to prevent itching and swelling.
– Take an antihistamine tablet to help reduce swelling (antihistamine tablets are available on prescription or from pharmacies).
– If the colour of the affected area changes, becomes pussy and begins to look infected, or you appear to have an allergic reaction, then consult a doctor.

For more information visit NHS guide to treating bites and stings.

Ear infectionear infection

Cause and symptoms of an ear infection:

Ear infections are a common holiday complaint. It’s can be caused by repeated exposure to water when swimming. Symptoms include ear pain, fever, yellow or bloody drainage from the ear, loss of appetite, vomiting, and trouble sleeping.

How to avoid an ear infection:

Wear a swimming cap or ear plugs and thoroughly dry your ears after swimming.

How to treat:

– Ibuprofen and paracetemol can dull the pain of an ear infection.
– If you have an ear infections visit a doctor who may be able to prescribe antibiotics.

For more information visit The Mirror’s travel bug page.

ConstipationWater and fruit

Cause and symptoms of constipation:

On holiday many people’s diet and exercise regime take a back seat. This can mean a lack of fibre and insufficient gut movement leading to constipation.

How to avoid constipation:

Choose fibre-rich food – such as fruit and veg and wholegrain bread – drink plenty of water and keep active.

How to treat:

Over the counter laxative medication is available to help ease the symptoms of constipation.

Alcohol poisoningPouring shots

Cause and symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

On holiday you want to let your hair down but too much alcohol, coupled with heat and exertion which could dehydrate you, can lead to a dangerous level of alcohol in your blood stream resulting in alcohol poisoning.

How to avoid alcohol poisoning:

Drink responsibly and stay hydrated.

How to treat:

– Try to keep them awake and sitting up.
– Give them some water, if they can drink it.
– Lay them on their side in the recovery position if they’ve passed out, and check they’re breathing properly.
– Keep them warm.
– Stay with them and monitor their symptoms.

For more information visit Drink Aware.

Deep Vein ThrombosisAeroplane isle

Cause and symptoms of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT):

These are blood clots that form in leg veins that can dislodge and travel to the heart or lungs. Symptoms include leg pain, numbness, redness, itching, rash, shortness of breath, and ulceration of the skin. DVTs are more likely when travelling from a hot climate, as dehydration leads to the blood clotting more readily. Pregnant women, overweight people, the elderly, smokers, and women taking the Pill or on HRT are most at risk.

How to avoid a DVT:

If you are at risk of getting a DVT or have had a DVT previously, consult your GP before embarking on long-distance travel. If you are planning a long-distance plane, train or car journey (journeys of six hours or more), ensure that you:

– Drink plenty of water.
– Avoid excessive alcohol, as it can lead to dehydration.
– Avoid taking sleeping pills, as it can cause immobility.
– Perform simple leg exercises, such as regularly flexing your ankles.
– Take occasional short walks when possible.
– Take advantage of refuelling stopovers, where it may be possible to get out and walk about.
– Wear elastic compression stockings.

How to treat:

If you have the symptoms of Deep Vein Thrombosis seek medical attention. For further information on the treatment of Deep Vein Thrombosis visit the NHS DVT treatment page. For information on travelling with DVT visit our DVT factfile page.


We hope this information helps to keep you healthy and happy on holiday. Also don’t forget to make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance,  to be sure you’re prepared for any eventuality if you do become ill.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition you can view our factfiles through our Guide on medical travel insurance.