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Minor travel maladies

Whilst we fervently hope our holidays and trips will go smoothly, a combination of stresses and unfamiliar environments can result in you or one of your travelling companions picking up a minor complaint - one that may be more irritating than seriously debilitating.

When abroad, it can be difficult to know who to turn to should you feel ‘under the weather’. For those who have purchased appropriate holiday insurance in advance of their trip, an advisory medical assistance service arranged by their insurers may be available - giving you the opportunity for a reassuring consultation with qualified medical staff.

The Flexicover Team looks at the top 5 travel-related minor medical issues that can occur whilst travelling and how to deal with these without having to organise an early return home.


The dreaded “stomach bug” or "dodgy tummy” is usually caused by an infection picked up from contaminated food or water. Gastroenteritis is common amongst travellers, especially in the first week or two in a foreign environment. Whilst diarrhoea is one symptom, vomiting and nausea are also common. Often symptoms will disappear in a few days but contact a doctor if the issue persists. Good hand hygiene and drinking plenty of safe, bottled water to stay hydrated can help avoid this. If you can, try to eat cooked food rather than cold foods such as salads washed in local tap water or items that need constant refrigeration or low-temperature storage (e.g. coleslaw).

Otitis media

Particularly common in children under the age of 10, otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear which can happen for many reasons, the main one being infection, possibly caused by swimming in a pool with poor chlorine care. Symptoms include earache, poor hearing, vomiting, nausea and high temperatures. Treatment usually involves taking painkillers for a few days; a local pharmacist may be able to advise you further. However, for prolonged problems, it’s advisable to contact a doctor, especially if you are flying home imminently as air pressure changes can exacerbate the problem.

Coughs, colds and flu-like illnesses

Coughs, colds and flu vary in severity both in the virulence of the strain and an individual’s immune system resilience. In many cases, symptoms disappear without intervention after the body has adjusted to its new surroundings. Often the effects can be controlled or counteracted with rest, high fluid intake and over-the-counter painkillers. And taking basic precautions like covering the mouth/nose when coughing or sneezing (although masks are probably overkill) and hand washing can minimise the spread. However, for the young, elderly or those with medical problems, do consult a medical practitioner as respiratory infections can affect these groups more seriously.

Trips, slips and falls

New, unfamiliar, surroundings make it relatively easy to pick up the odd unexpected fall or slip, with attendant bruising, cuts, abrasions and hurt pride. Inadequate lighting, unstable surfaces and excessive alcohol consumption may also be contributory factors if you take a tumble. Do be careful on that last point - most insurers will decline claims for accidents sustained whilst ‘under the influence’ of alcohol or drugs (so make sure you check the precise terms of your policy). Carry a small medicine box with some antiseptic cream and plasters or bandages, to stop a minor inconvenience becoming a major problem.

Adventurous activities

In most holiday destinations it isn’t hard to find myriad recreational and adventurous activities to participate in. Jet skiing, paragliding, motorcycling, skydiving and bungee jumping are all popular examples, particularly as ‘impulse’ activities. Whilst quite a number of these are covered by most policies, it’s crucial that you check your activity against the policy terms. A leading cause of injury claims amongst under 25s, by taking all the relevant precautions and listening carefully to any safety briefing, you can ensure a fun time is had and your holiday is incident-free.

Wherever your travels take you this year we hope you stay healthy, fit and well and that your trip goes as smoothly as planned. Should you need a verbal consultation or a full-fledged hospitalisation and early return home, we at Flexicover Team are committed to ensuring that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.

Happy travels!