When to avoid taking medical advice from your holiday rep
Many holidaymakers fall ill on holiday and when this happens it is important to tell your holiday representative in case other holidaymakers are also ill or you need to see a doctor.
However, sometimes holiday representatives are not as helpful as they might be – and may even try and deny there is an outbreak of sickness and diarrhoea in case holidaymakers try to make a claim against the tour operator.
Some holiday representatives may even recommend medications to holidaymakers – or send them off to the hotel doctor, where inappropriate treatments or drugs not licensed in the UK may be given to hotel guests who are ill.
In popular holiday destinations such as Spain, many medical centres will have doctors or nurses from the UK who are aware of which drugs are licensed in the UK and are safe to prescribe.
In less developed holiday destinations, you may find however, that local doctors use medications which are banned, unlicensed or in some cases not suitable for the condition being treated – and taking advice from your holiday rep could place you in danger if you end up being misdiagnosed or a drug is misprescribed.
Here are some tips to help you avoid being fobbed off with excuses if you fall ill on holiday – and also how to make sure you are safe from prescribing errors if you do see a local doctor in your holiday resort:
- If your holiday rep denies there is an outbreak of illness at your hotel, ask around your fellow guests and see if anyone else is ill
- Check on Tripadvisor and see if the hotel has a history of holiday sickness and diarrhoea – and note when the last outbreak was
- Report your illness to the tour operator’s UK customer services department by email if your holiday rep denies any illness in resort – and keep a note of any conversations in resort or correspondence
- If your holiday rep starts recommending local therapies or complementary therapies, steer clear – even seemingly innocent treatments such as ginger for nausea should not be taken if you are taking drugs like Warfarin, for example, and many herbal remedies can interact with prescription drugs or cause side effects
- If your holiday rep tells you your sickness and diarrhoea will get better of its own accord, do not wait any longer than 24 hours to see a sign of improvement – keep drinking fluids, but ask to see an English speaking doctor or pharmacist if symptoms do not get better, or actually grow worse
- In overseas countries different classes of drugs such as antibiotics may be available to buy over-the-counter. However, self medication, or medication on the advice of your holiday rep, could put your life in danger or may not work
- In some cases of holiday sickness and diarrhoea, taking medications to prevent symptoms without treating the infection – eg taking loperamide-containing drugs such as Immodium – means that the infection does not pass out of the body, which can lead to secondary infection or a recurrence of symptoms. Don’t dose yourself with OTC medications like Immodium if your symptoms are severe or your faeces contain blood – seek medical help for a diagnosis of the infection first, as you may need antibiotics as well as a anti-diarrhoea medicine.
If you fall ill on holiday, you can access the NHS Choices website for advice – or simply contact your GP surgery in the UK if you are prescribed any medication abroad and are unable to read the instruction leaflet in the box, which will include vital information about any adverse effects of the medication or possible interactions with medication you are already taking.
And if you are prescribed medication and the doctor or pharmacist does not bother to ask you if you are already taking medications, then again contact your own GP at home and make sure the prescription you have been given is safe before you start the treatment.