With international travel still limited for summer 2021, many Brits are seeking staycation holidays instead. Whether you choose to camp in the beautiful countryside, or head to the coast for trips to the beach, various illnesses and injuries can occur during these types of trips, ending what should be a relaxing break in tears.

With this in mind, and to get expert advice on how to treat (and avoid) potential injuries which can be gained while camping or during other staycations, we questioned Dr Dean Eggitt (GP at The Oakwood Surgery), Navin Khosla (Superintendent Pharmacist at FROM MARS), and Dr Giuseppe Aragona (GP and Online Doctor for PrescriptionDoctor.com). Read on to find out more…

Please note – this article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and should not replace the relationship that exists between a patient and their existing healthcare provider.

Sunburn

Sunburn is damage to the skin caused by certain wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation.  Once damaged, blood vessels dilate and become leaky to allow nutrients to flood the burnt area promoting repair and healing – this why sunburn looks red, swollen, and feels hot. This is also why sunburn and dehydration go hand in hand. The damaged skin may blister and will eventually flake away to be replaced by new skin.

How to treat issue: Sunburn is treated by removing yourself from direct or indirect sunlight. Once the cause has been removed, cool the area with a shower, bath, or cold damp cloth. Apply copious amounts of cool unscented moisturiser (such as an after sun or aloe Vera gel) and drink plenty of water. This will help you and your skin to stay well hydrated. To relieve the pain further, simple painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen are usually fine. Do not pick or pop any blisters that form.

Tips to avoid issue: Sunburn can be avoided by covering your skin with clothes, your eyes with sunglasses, and staying in the shade. If you choose to expose your skin to the sun, apply a sun lotion that is suitable for the environment you are in. The factor of the sun lotion is how many times your natural protection you will get, not how many minutes you can expose yourself to direct sunlight.

Apply sunscreen even on a cloudy day as the sun’s rays can still penetrate through the clouds. Try to avoid the especially damaging midday sun when temperatures are usually at their highest.  Remember that sunburn can also occur through indirect exposure such as reflection from water and snow. Wear a hat, long sleeve cotton shirts and trousers to avoid any burn.

Heatstroke

Heatstroke occurs when your body temperature is unusually high, usually as a result of exposure to high temperatures, causing you to feel quite unwell. In its early stages, we refer to it as heat exhaustion. Heatstroke causes significant loss of water from the body making you feel tired, sick, weak, dizzy, and thirsty. Severe cases can be life-threatening.

How to treat issue: Heatstroke is treated by removing yourself from the cause of the high temperature and resting in a cool environment. Remove excessive clothing, and spray water on the skin or apply a cold damp cloth – this will also help to bring the body temperature down. To relieve the feeling of like you are going to faint, lay down somewhere comfortable and try to raise the legs a little. An important feature of the treatment of heatstroke is to ensure that you properly rehydrate by drinking plenty of water. Try to avoid cooling down in the shower or bath where fainting could be disastrous. Avoid drinks that will further dehydrate you, including drinks that contain caffeine, fizzy drinks, and alcohol.

Tips to avoid issue:  Make sure you wear sunscreen, a hat and stay out of the midday sun. You should also drink plenty of water throughout the day and if you start to feel dehydrated, overly hot, or tired then make sure you head indoors into a cool and shady room immediately.

Hay-fever symptoms

Hay-fever is caused by the overreaction of the body to pollen. Many plants reproduce by spreading their seed into the air for it to float away and eventually land and grow in fertile soil. Of course, when the air is flooded with these tiny seeds that can be impossible to see, it is easy to breathe them in through your nose and mouth. Similarly, it's hard to avoid pollen settling in the eyes. In most people, this pollen is simply disposed of by the body. However, in some people the body sees the pollen as a threat and takes action to defend itself, causing the typical features of itchy and runny eyes, an itchy and runny nose, and an itchy and uncomfortable throat. In more severe cases, the lungs can also become involved causing a wheeze and shortness of breath.

How to treat issue: Hay-fever can be eased by avoiding areas rich in pollen. The nose can be protected by applying a small amount of Vaseline around the nostrils. Changing clothes regularly and taking frequent showers will help to remove the pollen from your personal self. Washing your face with cold water and a flannel to wash away any lingering pollen particles which may cause further irritation. Wraparound sunglasses (or other styles that are worn very close to the face) can also provide a protective barrier over the eyes. When at home, keep windows and doors closed and vacuum and dust with a damp cloth regularly. Start taking antihistamines before your hay fever symptoms come along so the drug can get into your system. Taking antihistamines such as loratadine regularly is much more effective than taking them only when your symptoms appear. Eyes drops are also available. In severe cases, sometimes steroids are prescribed by a doctor.

Tips to avoid issue: Hay-fever can be eased by avoiding areas rich in pollen and staying indoors. Avoid activities that are likely to release pollen, like gardening. When washing clothes, do not hang them outside as this will attract pollen to them. Similarly, pets will carry pollen from outdoors, indoors.  Needless to say – avoid smoking. When camping, keeping your tent door zipped as much as possible should help to keep pollen particles outside.

Burns

Burns are caused by extreme temperatures of dry heat. Burns cause rapid damage to resulting in pain, redness, whiteness, or charring of the skin, swelling, and blistering.

How to treat issue: Burns are treated by removing yourself from the cause. Once the cause has been removed, cool the area with running cold for at least 20 minutes. Don't use ice or any other substitute. Remove anything from the area of the burn including clothing or jewellery unless it is stuck to the skin. If the item is stuck, leave it in place. Do not pop blisters. Apply petroleum jelly to the area two to three times a day, and cover the burn with a sterile bandage or use a clean plastic material like cling film to keep it protected from infection.

You should also ensure that you do not expose the burn to the sun. Wearing broad spectrum sunscreen and keeping out of the sun as much as possible is advised. Ensure you are otherwise warm by keeping wrapped up in something like a blanket. To relieve the pain further, paracetamol and ibuprofen are usually fine. If the skin has been burnt white, charred, involves the eyes, or is larger than the size of a hand, immediately seek expert medical attention.

Tips to avoid issue: Burns are more common in people who usually require supervision, such as children and vulnerable adults. Burns can be avoided by supervising young children and vulnerable adults around high-risk areas, lighters, candles, ovens, and barbeques. Open campfires are not allowed in the UK, so you will need the correct specialist equipment to cook your food. Make sure you follow the manufactures instructions and always supervise children.

Scalds

Scalds are caused by extreme temperatures of wet heat. Examples include hot drinks or steam. Like burns, steam cause rapid damage to resulting in pain, redness, or whiteness of the skin, swelling, and blistering.

How to treat issue: Cool the burn immediately with running water for a minimum of 10mins. Remove jewellery and loose clothing. Do not remove anything stuck to the burn. Dress the burn with a sterile dressing that will not stick. Cling film is ideal to wrap the burn in, followed by a bandage. Do not pop blisters. To relieve the pain further, paracetamol and ibuprofen are usually fine.  If the scalded area turns white, involves the eyes, or is larger than the size of a hand, immediately seek expert medical attention.

Tips to avoid issue:Scalds are more common in people who usually require supervision, such as children and vulnerable adults. Scalds can be avoided by supervising young children and vulnerable adults around high-risk areas, such as hot drinks, hot baths, and kettles.

Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. Dehydration may be mild and may not result in illness, or can be severe leading to confusion, seizures, and ultimately death. When dehydrated, it is common to notice thirst, dark urine, urinating less frequently, feeling tired, dizzy, and faint. Those who are unable to take care of their own needs are most at risk of dehydration.

How to treat issue:Dehydration is treated by increasing fluid intake. Water, oral rehydration sachets e.g. Dioralyte or isotonic drinks are best as they also replace lost body salts. Where this is more difficult small sips of water should be encouraged or given frequently using a spoon. It is often possible to predict the risk of dehydration such as when someone has diarrhoea, vomiting, or a fever. In such instances, it is helpful to pre-empt the risk and start drinking more water before it becomes necessary. The aim should be to have urine that looks clear of overly pale yellow.

Tips to avoid issue: The best way to avoid dehydration is, simply put, to ensure you are drinking 8-10 glasses of water per day. If you find this difficult because you are on an activity holiday, then you may want to try hydration sachets to remain hydrated more easily. However, keeping a refillable bottle with you at all times so you can refill throughout the day is the best way to remain hydrated. You should also try and limit your time in the sun and heat. Dehydration is much more likely with certain medical conditions (such as diabetes), medicines (such as diuretics), following drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol, or after prolonged exposure to heat.

Food poisoning

Food poisoning occurs when you have been eaten or drank something that contained germs. This can occur between a few hours or weeks after exposure. These germs are recognised by the body as invaders and so the body takes action to remove and kill them. This often results in one or more of the following: feeling sick, vomiting, tummy cramps, diarrhoea, tiredness, and a temperature.

How to treat issue:The body is extremely effective at fighting germs from food poisoning and so, often the only treatment required is usually rest, however severe food poisoning may require seeing a doctor. Plenty of fluids are needed to prevent or treat dehydration and paracetamol can be used to help treat a fever, and try eating simple food, such as toast or biscuits when you feel able to. It's really important to stay away from other people when you have food poisoning as it's usually easily passed from one person to another. For that reason, it's also important not to share towels, food, drinks, or cutlery, with household members and to wash your hands regularly.

Tips to avoid issue:You can lessen your chance of getting food poisoning by ensuring food is stored according to the maker's instructions, cooked thoroughly, not consumed after its use-by date, and not left out for long periods of time after being prepared. Needless to say, avoid close contact with anyone who has food poisoning. This is especially true when traveling anywhere where hygiene standards are unknown.

Cuts and scrapes

Cuts and scrapes (or grazes) are small breaks to the skin that result in redness, swelling, pain, and possibly bleeding. Most cuts and scrapes are usually minor and do not require any special medical treatment. One of the main functions of the skin is to provide a protective barrier to the outside world. Consequently, when the skin is broken, the main concern is where bleeding won't stop or if an infection sets in.

How to treat issue: Bleeding usually stops on its own but if it requires encouragement, gentle pressure should be applied to the area until it stops. The wound should be gently cleaned using freshwater – this will help to remove any debris and germs. Once dry and the bleeding has stopped, cover the wound with a clean dry dressing. Something like a sticking plaster should be fine taking care not to apply the sticky surface directly to the wound or scrape. Small cuts and scrapes usually heal within a week.

Where bleeding refuses to stop, there is something stuck in the wound, the cut is longer than 5cm, the cut has soil in it, or it was caused by a human or animal bite, medical attention should be sought. It is also important to seek attention where the wound fails to heal significantly within a week, or if it becomes red, hot and starts discharging fluid.

Tips to avoid issue: Avoiding cuts and scrapes usually takes a little bit of forethought. If you are going to engage in an activity where there is a risk of a cut or scrape, put on safety equipment suitable for the task. Anything that reduces your awareness of risk, such as alcohol or medicines should also be avoided in higher-risk situations.

Blisters

Blisters are splits in the layers of the skin that then fills up with fluid. These splits can occur for many reasons but are often caused by friction or a burn. Blisters are raised, red and usually produce a burning feeling. Blisters are at risk of breaking causing an opening in the skin where germs can get in.

How to treat issue: Blisters are usually mild and often require nothing more than protection to stop them from bursting. Covering the blister with a soft dressing can help to protect it and paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to ease the associated discomfort. Do not pop blisters, allow them to heal on their own, cover them up with a dressing to stop them being irritated further.

Tips to avoid issue: As blisters are usually caused by friction or a burn, these should be avoided. Wear the appropriate comfortable footwear, especially if you plan to do a lot of walking. Take spare socks, in case you get your feet wet. Have the necessary basic first aid dressings and plasters just in case.

Near drowning

Drowning is when water is taken into the airway causing difficulty or inability to breathe. Drowning is a severe life-threatening emergency that is often accidental and preventable. It is more likely in young people, vulnerable adults, people with certain medical conditions (such as epilepsy), or when judgment is impaired such as following alcohol or drugs. Lack of oxygen to the brain can cause serious damage within a few minutes.

How to treat issue:Where someone is drowning, you should ensure first of all that you do not expose yourself to danger. It's harder to treat two casualties than it is one. Shout for help and call the emergency services. In the UK this can be done by dialling 999 or 112 – 112 is an internationally recognised emergency number. If the person can be safely rescued from the water, and they are unconscious, immediately begin chest compressions without giving breaths. Aim for 100 compressions per minute at around 1/3 the depth of the chest. Continue this until help arrives, you are exhausted, or the person wakes up. If after rescue from the water the person is awake, place them in the recovery position on their side with their head tilted back and mouth open. Keep them warm by covering them up.

Tips to avoid issue:Drowning can easily occur in the home environment where it is not expected. Supervise young children and vulnerable people around any body of water, whether this is a bath, pond, lake, or even an inflatable or paddling pool. Avoid any body of water when your judgement is impaired. Only swim where it is safe to do so, and only if you can swim.

Shock

Shock is when blood flow to the organs is reduced to such an extent that they are starved of essential nutrients. This lack of blood flow can lead to organ damage and in severe cases, death. There are many causes for shock including bleeding, allergic reactions, burns and severe dehydration.

How to treat issue: When someone is in shock, it is important to recognise and reverse the cause of it. With shock, this can be more difficult to understand and so often requires expert medical care. If the person appears seriously unwell, such as feeling faint, breathing rapidly, or is unconscious, dial 999 or 112. Until medical care is available it helps to lay down and elevate the legs. This will encourage blood to reach the heart and the brain. Keep the person warm by wrapping them up in a coat or blanket. Try to keep them calm and keep a close on eye them. If they become unresponsive, you should begin CPR.

Tips to avoid issue:Major causes for shock include blood loss, burns, heat stroke, allergic reactions or worsening of other underlying medical conditions. Whilst many of these are accidents and therefore hard to avoid, you can reduce your chance of having such accidents by being careful when consuming alcohol or when taking medicines that impair judgement. If you are an individual with an underlying medical condition, attending pre-planned medical appointments and having the means to contact help if you feel unwell is extremely important.

Insect bites and stings

Thankfully there are very few insects in the UK with the ability to inflict too much damage after a bite or a sting. Whilst the reaction is usually mild and resolves on its own, there are some instances where a bite or sting can cause an allergic reaction, a localised infection, or a more serious infection such as Lyme disease. Insect bites and stings usually cause redness, swelling, pain and itch that begin shortly after exposure and usually resolves within a week.

How to treat issue:  Insect bites and stings may require no treatment at all. Where the site is sore or itchy, applying a cold wet cloth or ice pack can help along with simple painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. If a sting or tick can still be seen at the area, gently remove it, taking care not to squeeze. Wash the area with soap and water. When the bite or sting is itchy, medicines such as antihistamines can be used and are available from a pharmacy without a prescription. Where there is evidence of an allergic reaction, you should seek medical help. Similarly, any rash that is rapidly spreading or does not settle within one week should be seen by a medical professional.

Tips to avoid issue: Prevention is better than the cure. When going into places likely to harbour insects, wear clothing sufficient to protect your skin. An example of such is the need to wear trousers when walking through long grass to protect from tick bites. Spray clothing with an insect repellent such as jungle formula and insect repellent bands on the wrists. If you are unlucky enough to get a sting, don't squeeze it or pick it out with tweezers are you might accidentally introduce more venom into your skin. Try to avoid itching as this leads to further damage of the skin and can increase the risk of infection.

Animal bites

Animal bites are renowned for being dirty. When an animal bites you, there is a risk of puncture of the skin and seeding of germs that can lead to infection. In some cases, these infections can be very severe, such as in cases of tetanus, hepatitis, HIV, or rabies. Some bites are minor, but others may cause serious damage to the body.

How to treat issue:  Where a bite has broken the skin, it should always be assumed to be dirty. The wound should be washed with warm running water and any debris removed. It should also be encouraged to bleed a little by gently squeezing it if this can be tolerated which will help to wash out any germs. Pat the wound dry and cover with a sterile low adherent dressing. Seek medical help if the skin has been broken (you may need a tetanus or rabies vaccine or other antibiotics).

Tips to avoid issue: Bites commonly occur from household pets – pets can be unpredictable and so young children and vulnerable adults should never be left alone with animals. Treat pets with respect and try to avoid stroking or petting unfamiliar animals. Also stay clear of wild or stray animals. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a bite which breaks the skin, do not wait for infection to set in before seeking medical help.

Sea life related injuries

It is not common to suffer from sea life stings and bites in the UK, but where they do happen, they are commonly from jellyfish and sea urchins. The sting can feel like an intense burning sensation causing itching and redness. In more exotic regions, stingray and jellyfish are frequently involved. In these instances, the sting can be more severe.  

How to treat issue: Someone stung by a sea creature should be treated out of the water. They should stay as still as possible while being treated because movement increases the risk of toxins being released into the body. After suffering a sting, rinse the wound with sea water to help to dilute it. Remove any spines or debris from the area. It's ok to use tweezers here. Once cleaned soak the wound in hot water or apply a hot compress. Try to make it as hot as you can tolerate for at least 30 minutes. Clean wound with soap and water and rinse with fresh water. To ease the pain, simple painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are usually helpful.

Tips to avoid issue:You are more likely to suffer a sting or bite from sea life in water where you cannot see the bottom, or on a beach when you are less aware of your surroundings. You can reduce the chance of bites and stings by wearing wetsuits and footwear suitable for water. When walking through shallow water it's useful to stamp your feet as you walk to scare off any sea life. Beaches at high risk tend to have signs to warn bathers.

Poisonous plants

You may be surprised to hear that there are quite a few poisonous plants that are frequently seen and enjoyed in the UK. These range from the seemingly innocuous daffodil to the renowned belladonna, otherwise known as deadly nightshade. Whilst most of these plants are reasonably safe to handle and only cause minor skin irritation, some can induce burns and blisters when touched, or even death if eaten.

How to treat issue: If you have touched a plant that has then caused an uncomfortable skin reaction, wash the affected area with fresh cold water. The itch can be minimised by keeping the area cool and applying hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion, and sometimes antihistamines may be needed. These are available from a pharmacy without a prescription. Pain can be treated with simple painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Where a plant has been eaten, expert medical attention should be sought immediately. It's helpful to take a sample of the plant with you to help the medical professional identify the type of poison.

Tips to avoid issue:Children and vulnerable adults should not be left unattended around poisonous plants. Wear long sleeve tops, long pants, and suitable gloves when gardening and try to plan your garden to avoid use of poisonous plants. Do not touch wild plants that you do not recognise.

When it comes to life insurance it’s important you follow medical advice, as not doing so can impact on an application for cover. We are committed to providing customers with the cheapest route to buy life insurance, and here at Cavendish Online there are a couple different options to help you find the best policy for you.

You can either get a quote yourself, which takes just a few minutes of your time; just complete this form here. Or, if you want some human interaction, you can choose to speak with one of our specialists over the phone, who are extremely friendly and will be able to help you choose the best cover for you and your loved ones. Call us on 01392 241 850 to reach one of our helpful consultants, and tick another task off of the ‘to-do’ list!

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and should not replace the relationship that exists between a patient and their existing healthcare provider. Cavendish Online are not liable or responsible for the accuracy of the advice provided by third party experts, nor for the content or operation of any third-party websites, webpages, or resources which have been linked to within this article. *Advice and information correct as of w/c 31/05/2021

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