Summer’s here and it’s time for sun, sea, sand and… salmonella?
Millions of us are jetting off abroad on the great summer getaway and most of us will have a good time without incident.
Nobody plans to go on holiday and become unwell or have an accident, but the consequences can be appalling.
Brits are now being more adventurous with their holidays. As well as favourites like Spain, Greece and Tenerife they are now travelling to new long haul “terror free” destinations like Cuba, Dominican Republic and Mexico but they come with their own risks.
Hundreds of Brits on holiday in Cancun in Mexico last summer were struck down with crippling sickness bug Cyclospora that is commonly spread by food or water contaminated with faeces. The outbreak sparked a public health warning by the Foreign Office.
Nolan Mortimer, head of travel law at Simpson Millar solicitors, said people need to become more aware that standards abroad are often not as high as those we enjoy here in the UK.
Nolan, who is representing holidaymakers from the Mexico illness outbreak, 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.
“We have handled thousands of 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.
“Accidents in hotel rooms where children fall against glass balcony doors and they shatter are also quite common and they can leave horrific injuries with lifelong consequences as the standards of the glass may not be as good as back home.
“Also people 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 in the UK and this leads to outbreaks of illness similar to the one we have seen in Mexico.”
The most common complaints Nolan 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 said 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 a 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 may harbour bacteria. Also keep an eye on the chefs 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 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 CO gas poisoning 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.
Nolan added: “When you are on a package holiday it is the travel company’s responsibility to look after you and this includes ensuring that you are reasonably safe.
“If you do get ill or have an accident or something happens make sure you keep a note of everything that happens and any poor hygiene practices. Make a note of who you speak to and get photos or video evidence if you can.”
Sometimes, no matter how many precautions you take, illness or accident is still unavoidable.
If anyone in your group is unwell or ends up in hospital, Nolan recommends:
- Contact your rep and report your complaints
- Visit the hotel doctor, hospital or nearby medical practice and get treatment
- Keep detailed notes of symptoms and 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
- When you get home if symptoms persist visit your GP
- Don’t accept any goodwill gesture offered by your holiday company without taking advice as you may be left with serious ongoing problems