Health Advice

Gap Year

Spread your wings and fly for the year, experiencing wonderful sights and scenes that you could only ever imagine! However, before you kick back and relax for the year, make sure you have thought through the following points thoroughly.


Check your vaccination requirements at least 6 months prior to your trip. Speak with your GP about any boosters you may need, and about any other vaccinations recommended for the areas you are planning to travel to. Make sure this is not left until the last minute, as some jabs cannot be taken within three months of another jab, so make this your first priority!

Insurance Policy

  • If you are a resident of the UK, UK national, part of an EEA state or a refugee resident in any of the above, you are entitled to an EHIC form. These are easily obtained from your local post office. This will allow you reduced or free cover in any of the EEA states. EEA states are as follows; Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Malta, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Estonia, Poland, Finland, Portugal, France, Romania, Germany, Slovakia, Greece, Slovenia, Hungary, Spain, Iceland, Sweden, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, United Kingdom and Latvia. Even with an EHIC form, you will still need a valid insurance for the event of illness and death.
  • Don’t go for the first policy you see! Have a shop around, look for the best deals and even haggle if you can to see if you can get more thrown into the offer for your money.
  • If you have a pre existing medical condition, such as epilepsy or diabetes, or if you are pregnant, make sure you make this thoroughly clear when taking out your policy. Don’t hold any information back; be completely honest about your condition.
  • Always read the small print.
  • Make sure the insurance is adequate if you intend to take part in any sports or activities you would not ordinarily take part in at home, such as winter sports, or even sky diving.
  • If your holiday destination is to a less developed country, make sure your insurance covers the costs of flying you home should you need important medical attention. Do not take risks to save a few pound.
  • Always carry your insurance papers with you! After all, you never know when you might need them.
  • Always carry your identity papers on you.
  • If you are allergic to any medications, put a note to that effect in with your identity papers. Like wise, maybe you can jot a few notes of any medical conditions. After all, if you are unconscious or not in the right state of mind, you may not be able to give the doctor treating you much needed information.

Prevention of Accidents

Accidents can increases the risk of HIV or Hepatitis B & C if you require a blood transfusion in a high-risk destination.

  • Records show there are more tourist deaths in road accidents or drowning incidents than from diseases contracted abroad! So make sure you are careful with swimming; don’t go too far out into the sea if you are not a confident swimmer.
  • Never drink alcohol before swimming. Even a couple of drinks can impair your judgements.
  • Remember many countries will not drive on the same side of the road as we do in the UK. Check this out before you travel so you can be prepared, particularly if you are hiring a vehicle yourself.
  • It’s also worth remembering that a lot of the roads abroad are not as well kept as the roads in Britain. Many can be badly maintained and bumpy, and roads tend to be narrow and winding, so drive extra safely.
  • Never drink alcohol before driving.
  • Always swim with others, keep check on tides, currents and strong winds.
  • Be careful when using a lilo at sea, as currents can change swiftly and could sweep the airbed out to sea. Although it may feel relaxing, make sure you do not drop off on a lilo at sea! If you feel tried, take to the beach or by the pool instead.
  • Allow at least one hour after eating a large meal before taking to the sea or pool.
  • Always look for emergency exits and check balconies, fire exits and first aid arrangements on arriving at your chosen accommodation.

Malaria Risk

Check out your malaria risk prior to leaving for your trip. It’s worth remembering that mosquitoes feed between dusk and dawn and are most active in low light hours after dusk, and in the hours prior to dawn. It is therefore important that repellents are used after evening time to prevent being bitten.

Where possible, use a repellent that contains a natural-based repellent such as lemon or eucalyptus, or those that have DEET. Apply liberally to the entire body, even areas that you would normally have covered, as a precaution. Make sure to keep reapplying your chosen repellent, as they normally have a life span of just four hours. After this time, you are not protected.

While clothing alone will not protect you against mosquito bites, it can help in prevention. Clothing that covers a large proportion of the body, such as long sleeve shirts, full length trousers, and socks, are helpful in preventing you from being bitten. Although mosquitoes can bite through different materials to penetrate the skin, wearing these types of clothing will substantially lower the risk. It’s worth remembering denim jeans and canvas boots will make it more difficult for mosquitoes to penetrate the material, although in hot climates this may be not be ideal for all travellers.

How to Avoid Traveller's Diarrhoea

  • Stick to bottled water!
  • Remember that ice cubes will be made using the local water, so avoid these from your drinks. You could always make some yourself using bottled water if you have apartment accommodation.
  • Always remember to brush your teeth using bottled water. Although you don’t intend to drink any of the water you out in your mouth, you may swallow some by accident. It only takes a small amount to upset your stomach.
  • Check the seal is in place when buying bottled water abroad and ask to open the water yourself. If you think the bottle may have been opened, don’t take the risk and go for carbonated water instead, again asking to open the bottle yourself.
  • Be careful not to accidentally consume water when you are in the shower or washing your face.
  • Avoid roadside food vendors selling ice cream and unwashed fruit.
  • If you are eating from a buffet, be wary of food kept warm under food lamps, as these can be a source of infection.
  • Eat from a buffet service early, as soon as the food is bought out, to make sure it is a fresh as possible.
  • Avoid unpasturised milk, shellfish, soft cheeses, lukewarm food and empty restaurants!
  • Remember; food should either be piping hot, or freezing cold.
  • If you are self catering, always boil water before using it in cooking.
  • Keep your personal hygiene standards high. Always wash your hands before eating, and after using the toilet. Keep a hand sanitiser with you for extra convenience.
  • If you get diarrhoea, drink plenty of clear, clean fluids. You may want to take some medication with you in case this happens.
  • Avoid seafood and abide by the "cook it, boil it or peel it" rule when eating in local restaurants.
  • Avoid salads at restaurants, particularly in areas of high risk of infection and poor sanitation.
  • When swimming avoid swallowing water in swimming pools, lakes or the sea.

You can purchase products such as Dioralyte, which contain rehydration salts consisting of sugars and salts (glucose, sodium chloride, potassium chloride and disodium hydrogen citrate) to replace body fluids lost as a result of acute diarrhoea. Antibiotics, as advised by your doctor, should be taken if the condition does not improve or worsens. If after 24-48 hours the diarrhoea does not improve or worsens it is good to seek medical attention, as the diarrhoea could indicate other conditions.

Sun Care

As the Australians say - Slip, Slap, Slop - Slip on a shirt, Slap on a hat, and Slop on some sun cream.

Sun creams are often applied too thinly, and are not regularly applied throughout the day. Sun protection begins to loose it’s effectiveness over time and will need to be applied at least every 3-4 hours. It should also be applied 30minutes before exposure to the sun, whereas many people don’t do this. Others will go into the sea and into pools, without realising their sun cream is not waterproof. The water will instantly remove the cream from the body, meaning you have no protection. You should always try to use lotions that are waterproof, especially on children who are constantly in and out of the pool, exposing themselves to the high temperatures with no or little protection.

The higher the SPF (sun protection factor) on your cream, the greater the protection against UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for burning of the skin, but while all creams protect against UVB rays, not all protect against UVA rays. Some travellers presume both UVA and UVB rays are protected in all sun creams but this is not the case and travellers should be more aware of this. UVA protection is usually rated separately between 2 and 4, so make sure you buy a sun cream that offers both!

You should also consider your clothing when you are exposed to the sun for long periods of time. Wear sunglasses to protect the delicate skin near the eyes, and always wear a hat to protect the head and back of the neck. It is also wise to wear tops that cover the shoulders as these can often become burnt. By avoiding the sun between 11am and 3pm you can prevent sun burning and overexposure, as this is the time span where the sun is at it‘s peak.

It’s also wise to drink plenty of non alcoholic drinks while in the heat. Water in particular will help to keep you alert and your body hydrated, as you loose more water in heat due to perspiration.