As millions of UK holidaymakers prepare for their main summer vacation their dreams are of sun-kissed shores, golden beaches and plentiful food and drink.
But what happens if your dreams are short-lived and that ideal holiday that you’ve worked so hard all year to pay for turns into a nightmare as you’re taken ill or injured whilst abroad.
Sean Gordon, Senior Manager and Solicitor from personal injury specialists Neil Hudgell Solicitors, offers some expert advice and guidance on how to avoid the holiday from hell.
Before you go, check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) about what vaccinations are needed for the area you’re visiting. If you’ve checked with the FCO and you’re still unsure, ask your doctor as he’ll be able to give you advice on what precautions are needed for where.
You should make sure you leave plenty of time for your vaccinations to work as some drugs need time to build up in your system.
European Health Insurance Card
For all your travels, make sure you’ve got a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is available from the Department of Health, and gives you access to state-provided healthcare in all 30 European Economic Area (EEA) countries, as well as Switzerland, at a reduced cost or sometimes even free of charge.
You need to remember however that free healthcare doesn’t apply in all countries, and you may be asked to pay for some care or for medications.
Reciprocal Healthcare Arrangements
The UK has agreements with around 20 countries – including Turkmenistan, Russia and New Zealand – whereby some free care may be available.
When travelling abroad, you should always ensure you have the right insurance policy in place. Key things to remember are:
- Be honest and declare any pre-existing medical conditions, even if you end up paying more for your cover. The alternative is that you may find you’re unable to claim at a critical moment.
- Check the cover applies to activities you may want to engage in. For example, some policies want you to tell them if you intend to play golf or tennis.
- Always make sure you have enough cover. In some countries, for example the US, even £2 million may not be enough.
Make sure you take a copy of the policy with you on holiday. Don’t take the original in case it gets lost, but a copy should always be to hand. This will tell you the exact way to get help in an emergency and may also be useful if you find yourself arguing with someone over the phone.
If you have emergency repatriation cover and your medical condition permits it, consider the possibility of going back home early. But if you’re offered a return on a scheduled flight, check staff on it are equipped to care for you or that you will be accompanied.
Make sure that any doctor or hospital knows that you’ve taken out medical insurance and what it covers. Make sure that any copy policy which you give to them is returned to you, once they in turn have taken a copy for their records.
If you need to buy any medicines whilst you’re abroad then keep both receipts and original prescriptions, and of course make sure that all instructions that you are provided with are in English, so that you know for sure that you have the correct medicine, and are taking it as directed.
Finally, in the event of a claim, you must ensure you follow the procedure detailed on any insurance policy to the letter.
Treating Minor Injuries
If you get a scrape or a cut you should always keep it clean and apply antiseptic.
Always try and be a fussy eater. Avoid undercooked meat and shellfish and salads as these might not have been washed in safe water. Always avoid drinking tap water or untreated water.
If you become unwell as a result of eating or drinking something contaminated, be sure to make a note of all the items that you have eaten or drunk for the previous 24 hours, and where they were consumed or purchased from.
Also be sure to report any incidents of food poisoning as soon as possible (see “Holiday Complaints” below), and make a note of the names and addresses of anybody else that you come across who became ill after eating or drinking the same items, or purchasing food or drink from the same supplier.
Arrange for a stool or vomit sample to be provided to a medical practitioner as soon as possible after you start suffering from the symptoms, in order that the cause of your illness can be identified as likely to have been caused by contaminated food or drink.
Protect yourself with a high-factor sun lotion. The best is 15 SPF and above.
If you start to feel unwell and your temperature increases (+38C) check your temperature every three to four hours. Not all fevers require medical attention but if yours persists then always seek the advice of a health professional.
Avoid any language barriers and if you need a doctor or nurse try and get one who speaks English. If in doubt, contact the British Embassy or Consulate of the country you’re travelling in.
If you’re not happy with any aspect of the holiday, it’s always best to register your dissatisfaction with the holiday representative or accommodation provider whilst you are on holiday. Keep notes of your complaint, who you complained to, when you had the discussions and what was agreed.
Photographic and video evidence is also always useful, if you have been injured as the result of a dangerous or defective footpath; hotel room or other hazard, in respect of which you may be able to seek compensation. Make sure these are taken as soon as possible, as any complaint you make may result in the hazard being put right (and your evidence disappearing).
And, importantly, keep any receipts for expenses incurred as a result of your complaint.
Neil Hudgell Solicitors are specialists in handling claims relating to holiday illness. Every year we resolve cases for holidaymakers. Whilst the compensation cannot often make up for the distress or ill health suffered as a result of a holiday, it can help mitigate any financial expenses incurred or cover the costs of any further treatment or rehabilitation required.