Don’t leave home without it – top pharmacist gives top holidays tips

July 30th 2018

Emerson Green NHS Treatment Centre’s lead pharmacist is giving advice on what to pack to ensure you stay well and have fun on holiday, wherever you are.

Cathy Cooke, pharmacy manager and Fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, says the key to staying safe and healthy on holiday is forward planning. She said: “People spend a long time planning what clothes to take and pondering summer reading material, but they do not always give as much time to packing what they need to stay well.

“People wait a whole year for their special fortnight away; unfortunately, their fun can be ruined by health issues that could have been stopped by a bit of planning.”

Cathy’s top tips include:

  • Whether at home or abroad, ensure you have a sufficient supply of your regular prescription medication. If you are flying, keep some of your prescription in your hand luggage and some in your hold luggage. This way, even if your luggage ends up in the wrong country, you will have several days’ supply of your crucial medications. If you are in the UK and you have forgotten your medication a local pharmacy may be able to give an emergency supply, or you can call NHS 111 for advice on what to do.
  • Have a supply of over-the-counter pain medication that will not adversely affect any other medical conditions you may have. Whilst ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin are generally acceptable in most countries, some over-the-counter painkillers are banned in other countries and possession can lead to criminal prosecution. The Home Office website has a list of banned drugs:  Some prescribed UK medication may also need you to prove you have a prescription and medical need. Talk to your GP in the weeks leading up to your travel if they appear on the list.
  • Stomach bugs are easily picked up both in the UK and abroad. The most important thing is to have plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Pack anti-diarrhoea medication, which can help when travelling; the ‘melt on the tongue’ versions are particularly useful in areas where you may have concerns about the water supply. Rehydration sachets will help you to replace electrolytes lost during vomiting or diarrhoea. If the symptoms continue or appear after your return, see your GP, as you could have picked up a parasite such as giardiasis or cryptosporidium.
  • Dressings and plasters are a must, especially if you are planning activities such as cycling. Take bottled water or saline sachets for cleansing cuts, grazes or wounds and ready-prepared skin wipes can also be very handy. Tweezers are useful for removing splinters and scissors and safety pins are useful for cutting and securing bandages. Remember that you can only put scissors in hold luggage.
  • Pack insect repellent and ensure you use it. Mosquitoes bite most at dawn and dusk. Keep any bites clean with soap and water and do not be tempted to scratch them as the wound can become infected and ruin a holiday.
  • Take, and use, a good sun screen, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to protect against UVB and at least four-star UVA protection. Most people don’t apply enough, apply generously and reapply regularly.

Cathy said: “Remember, for flight hand luggage, liquid containers must hold no more than 100ml; this includes medicine and sun lotion so think about checking larger bottles into hold luggage while carrying travel sizes with you.

“If you have any doubts before leaving, visit your local community pharmacist. Tell them where you are going and give the ages and medical conditions of the people in your party; they will be delighted to give you advice.”