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Home News centre National Press Releases 2012 Press Releases ›  Follow ten top tips for a safe winter holiday

Follow ten top tips for a safe winter holiday

14 December 2012

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) are reminding UK travellers visiting friends and family or taking winter holidays to follow some top tips to ensure a safe and healthy holiday.

  1. You should ideally speak to your local travel clinic or GP surgery six to eight weeks before your holiday to find out if you need any routine/travel vaccinations or anti malarial medication. Even if you are travelling last minute and grew up in the country you are visiting, it is still important to seek advice before you go.
  2. Make sure you have adequate supplies of any regular medication for your trip. Carry a copy of your prescription with you in case of queries about the medication you are carrying.
  3. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance for your destination and likely activities, including winter sports cover where relevant. Medical care abroad can be expensive and most countries do not provide free care. Make yourself aware of where the health services are at your destination in case you require them.

    If you are visiting European Union countries, apply for a European Health Insurance card, but remember this will only cover you for emergencies, you still need travel health insurance.
  4. Avoid mosquito borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever by following the ABCD of prevention: be Aware, use Bite avoidance measures, take Chemoprophylaxis where appropriate (malaria prevention tablets) and seek prompt Diagnosis (get urgent medical care) if you develop a fever during or after travel.

    The mosquitoes that transmit malaria bite at dawn and dusk, while those that spread dengue fever bite during the day. Use insect repellent and cover up with clothing to help prevent bites. If you are using sunscreen, apply insect repellent after sunscreen. Malaria prevention tablets are widely available from your chemist or GP; there is no preventative medication for dengue fever so it’s very important to avoid being bitten.
  5. Illnesses spread by food and water, are common in some countries, so it is important to take care with food and water to avoid diarrhoea and stomach upsets. As a general rule, avoid foods that are not cooked, boiled or peeled. Also avoid buffet food that has been sitting out for hours. Drink only safe bottled water and avoid ice in drinks. Beware of fake bottled water and avoid any product that you suspect may have been tampered with.
  6. Avoid heat-related illnesses by drinking safe bottled water or other safe bottled soft drinks regularly, wear a hat and use plenty of sunscreen to prevent sunburn. Babies, young children and the elderly are particularly at risk of becoming dehydrated, so special care should be taken for these groups.
  7. Try to avoid getting water in to your mouth when swimming or washing and do not clean your teeth in tap water, unless you are certain the water supply is safe.
  8. Avoid sexually transmitted diseases when on holiday - make sure you use condoms with any new or casual partners and be prepared by taking your own supply of in-date condoms from a recognised brand.
  9. Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries worldwide. Avoiding contact with all animals while travelling in rabies risk countries is the best way to prevent infection. If you are bitten, scratched or exposed to the saliva of any animal abroad, you should clean the wound as soon as possible with soap and water and seek medical advice immediately. Post-exposure vaccination is highly effective in preventing rabies.
  10. Remember, safety regulations abroad might not always be to the same standards as they are at home. Be careful with respect to road traffic safety and water based activities and remember alcohol can alter your judgement; do not drink and drive, or drink and swim. Take care on balconies and never dive from a balcony into a pool.

Dr Jane Jones, a travel-associated infection expert at the HPA, said: “Travelling can bring health and other benefits to people through rest and relaxation and through new experiences. It is however important to make sure that your trip is both safe and healthy. Any bout of diarrhoea can spoil your trip but some travel associated infections, like malaria, can be very serious. Taking preventive measures to protect yourself and your family against possible health problems makes good sense, and applies even if you were born in the country you are visiting.”

Dr Dipti Patel, joint director of the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC), said: “At this time of year a winter holidays may be particularly welcome and these are often in places where there may be health risks that do not occur in the UK. Being well informed about any risks and taking precautions to prevent illness and injury is the best way to stay healthy and have a safe and enjoyable trip.”


Notes for editors:

  1. More information on travel health is available from the HPA website on the Travel Health page.
  2. Advice for travellers is available from the NaTHNaC website [external link].
  3. National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) is commissioned by the Health Protection Agency and hosted by University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. It works in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency to achieve its objective of improving standards in travel medicine.
  4. The Health Protection Agency is an independent UK organisation that was set up by the government in 2003 to protect the public from threats to their health from infectious diseases and environmental hazards. In April 2013, subject to the usual approvals procedures for establishing new bodies, the Health Protection Agency will become part of a new organisation called Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health. To find out more, visit our website: or follow us on Twitter @HPAuk or ‘Like’ us on Facebook at  [external link].
  5. For more information please contact the national HPA press office at Colindale on 0208 327 7901 or email Out of hours the duty press officer can be contacted on 0208 200 4400.

Last reviewed: 14 December 2012