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Holiday health and safety

When it comes to travel, safety comes first

Posted: 23 January 2009
by Helen McKay-Ferguson

Everyone looks forward to a relaxing family holiday but it’s also important to be prepared for emergencies. We spoke to Dr. Laurence Gerlis and put together five health tips to help you stay safe while you’re away from home:


1. Plan ahead
As soon as you arrive, make sure you find out where the nearest medical facilities are, including a surgery and the closest hospital. Ensure you know the emergency services number and have a taxi number in case you haven’t hired a car. Also look out for a local pharmacy, as pharmacists are a good source of medical advice and often speak English. They may also be able to find an English-speaking doctor for you.

2. Paperwork
It is really important to have the right documentation when travelling abroad, so that you receive medical treatment as quickly as possible. A European Health Insurance Card is key when travelling to Europe and offers reduced cost medical treatment. Your travel insurance company may be useful too, and indeed if you have Private Medical Insurance in the UK, they might be able to assist too, depending upon your policy.

3. Language barriers
If you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, communicating with hospital staff can be difficult. If you have email or phone access, there are UK-based organisations who may be able to help in emergencies. For instance, have doctors with skills in many languages and they may be able to speak to someone locally to help you. If your difficulties communicating continue it could be worth contacting the British Embassy in that country, who will be able to offer advice.

4. Carry a first aid kit
It is always advisable to travel with a well-stocked first aid kit. Having the essentials to hand are great for minor problems, such as cuts and sunburn.

5) . Trust your instincts
If you are worried about the health of your child don’t think because you are on holiday it can wait till you get back. Always seek medical advice and act quickly.

For further travel advice, visit

It's also important to make sure you've got the right insurance. Here are five things to bear in mind:


1. Read the paperwork and ask questions if you don't understand anything.

2. Make sure you check what you're covered or not covered for.

3. Tell the insurance company if you have any existing medical conditions.

4. Find out if your employer provides health insurance as part of your benefits package.

5. Don't be pressured into taking travel insurance from your travel agent – you don't have to and other policies may be more suitable for you.

For further information, visit the Financial Services Authority at

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