MILLIONS of us are jetting off abroad over the next few weeks on the great summer getaway and most of us will have a great time without incident.
Nobody plans to go on holiday and become unwell or have an accident, but the consequences can be appalling.
Dozens of children on holiday at the four star Marina Parc hotel in Menorca have already been struck down with illness this year by a sickness bug.
Now Nick Harris, Head of travel at holiday claims specialist Simpson Millar is giving his advice on how to stay safe and try to lower your chances of you and your family getting ill on holiday.
He said this year's holiday illness hotspost are likely to be Spain, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Cuba as more tourists are now visiting them as they percieve these to be 'safe' destinations with less risk of terrorism.
He said people need to become more aware that standards abroad are often not as high as those we enjoy here in the UK.
Nick, who has handled countless illness claims for package holidaymakers in the north west claiming hundreds of thousands in compensation, said: “When people travel abroad they tend to let their guard down and forget about making basic checks on food that they would they would normally do.
"As soon as we unpack that bag and lie on our sun lounger we ignore all the rules we follow when we are at home.
"I have had cases of people who have been seriously ill after swimming in a contaminated pool or eating half cooked food from a hotel buffet or injured in an accident during their summer break. These people sometimes end up with serious medical conditions that affect their whole life. "We have had people come to us nearly three years after they first got ill on holiday and they were still able to take legal action.
"Accidents in hotel rooms where children fall against glass balcony doors and they shatter are also quite common and they leave horrific injuries for life as the standards of the glass are not as good as back home.
"People also regularly get injured on a waterslide at a water park with poorly maintained or designed equipment.
"Health and hygiene standards abroad are often inferior to those the UK and this leads to outbreaks of illness similar to the one we have seen in Menorca already this year.”
The most common complaints Nick handles include dirty, bug ridden pools and undercooked food, as well as trips and slips in and around hotels and accidents in hotel rooms.
He advised that if holidaymakers were in any doubt of the hygiene or safety standards at their hotel they should look out for basic indicators:
· Avoid eating from buffets where the food is barely lukewarm and to watch the food trays as some of them may have been out for long periods and be harbouring bacteria. Also keep an eye on the chefs and servers to ensure they are carrying out basic hygiene practices and appear clean.
· Fruit may not always be the best option as it may have been washed in contaminated water. Vegetables may have been grown in fields contaminated by sewage. So wash any fruit in bottled mineral water if possible.
· Check the pool is clean and that the water is clear and there is no algae or debris - if you have any doubts avoid it until you are satisfied it has been treated.
· Look around the dining areas for animals or insects – including birds and stray cats. These can harbour disease which humans can catch.
· Make sure you run the taps on your shower and bath for ten minutes when you arrive in your room with the doors open as they may be harbouring potentially deadly legionnaires disease.
· Check your insurance policy covers water parks and water sports such as jet skiing, mopeds or camel rides as often they are exempt as 'hazardous activities.'
· Keep an eye on kids at the start and end of the holiday when they are in the pool as these are the days when accidents are most likely to occur.
· Pack a carbon monoxide detector in your case as many tourists find themselves suffering from CO2 gas poisoning every year when they go on holiday.
· Take a mixture of currency and cards in case either is lost or stolen.
· Check the Foreign Office website before you go away to see the latest advice on the country you are travelling to.
Nick added: “When you are on a package holiday it's your travel company’s responsibility to look after your wellbeing and this includes ensuring that your holiday won't cause you to come to harm.
"If you become ill or are injured by an accident; make sure you keep a note of everything that happens and any poor hygiene practices. Make a note of who you speak to and take photos or record video evidence if you can.”
Sometimes, no matter how many precautions you take, illness or accident is still unavoidable.
So if anyone in your group is unwell or ends up in hospital Nick recommends:
· Contact your holiday rep and report your complaints while abroad
· Visit the hotel doctor or nearby medical practice and get treatment
· Keep detailed notes of symptoms, times, dates and length of illness
· Get video and photo evidence of poor hygiene/conditions at your resort along with pictures of any injured or ill person in your group
· If your symptoms persist when you get home visit your GP
· Don’t accept any goodwill gesture offered by your holiday company without taking advice, as you may be seriously left out of pocket