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Holidaymakers more vulnerable to injury and illness

Netcare 911 advises travellers to take care of their health this holiday season.
While holidays are a time for travel and fun it is also a time when holidaymakersought to be more vigilant regarding their health.

Netcare 911’s Principal Medical Consultant, Dr Victoria Roets says that individuals are known to be more vulnerable outside their familiar home environment. “Many people are more adventurous and open to experimentation while on holiday, often embarking on activities they would not usually undertake. Such activities could result in greater risk of illness and physical injury.”

Dr Roets recommends that travellers prepare properly before leaving on holiday so that they are equipped to deal with most eventualities. One item that everyone should take along when travelling is a comprehensive first aid kit for unexpected emergencies.

“A good first aid kit can serve as an interim resource until more qualified help arrives and can often make a real difference in an emergencysituation. The kit will also assist you in dealing with minor injuries that do not require the intervention of trained paramedics or doctors,” explains Dr Roets.

Contents of a practical first aid kit, as specified by Netcare 911

  1. 4 packs of sterile gauze
  2. Adhesive, hypoallergenic tape
  3. Adhesive bandages in several sizes
  4. 2 triangular elastic bandages
  5. Crepe roller bandages – 1 large and 1 small
  6. Sterile dressings – 2 large and 2 small
  7. Burnshield dressings of various sizes
  8. 2 eye pads with bandages
  9. Pack of sterile cotton wool swabs
  10. Assorted plasters
  11. Antiseptic wipes
  12. Antibiotic cream
  13. 1 pack of paracetamol tablets and liquid paracetamol
  14. Rehydration sachets
  15. Additional supplies of prescriptionmedication (if going away on holiday)
  16. Tweezers
  17. Sharp scissors
  18. 6 safety pins
  19. Face cloth
  20. Thermometer
  21. 2 pairs of gloves
  22. Space blanket
  23. Torch and spare batteries
  24. List of emergency contact numbers e.g. ambulance, family doctor, paediatrician etc.

"Accidents can happen at any time, which is why we always advise travellers to learn first aid so that they know what to do in an emergency,” says Shalen Ramduth, Netcare 911’s Head of National Road Operations. “Learning first aid would be a great New Year’s resolution for anyone to make.”

“The Netcare 911 School of Emergency and Critical Care offers first aid courses from level one to three. These programmes cover medical, trauma andpaediatric emergencies and are ideal for people dealing with children or the infirm, equipping individuals to provide basic supportive care until healthcare professionals can take over. "

"All South Africans should learn how to do basic CPR, as every minute that CPR is done until paramedics arrive may help save a life – it has been shown internationally that this improves survival rates. Netcare 911’s first aid and CPR courses are particularly valuable for parents, as nothing can be more upsetting than being unable to assist your child if he or she is in distress while you wait for medical assistance to arrive. At Netcare 911 we realise that you will never forget the first time you saved a life, or the first time you didn't," asserts Ramduth.

According to Dr Roets individuals are not only vulnerable to accidents but also to falling ill while on holiday. “Our natural immune system protects us against organisms in our regular environment and w are therefore relatively resistant to these organisms. Away from home and the environment to which our bodies have adapted, we are exposed to ’new’ organisms to which we have not previously been exposed and against which we may not have immunity.”

“Some airborne organisms are spread via air conditioning or in closed environments such as aircraft exposing individuals to new germs and new strains of old germs. The drying effect of air conditioning is bad for the health of the mucosal surfaces of the respiratory tract, making our bodies’ defences less effective. A change in routine, with late nights and inadequate sleep and rest, may also affect the immune system. The well-known jet lag can be just as incapacitating as the malaise of flu.”

Dr Roets says that gastro-intestinal illnesses are certainly more prevalent amongst holidaymakers and tourists, who may eat exotic and rich-tasting foods that their digestive system is not used to. Travellers are also prone to stomach upsets caused by certain bacteria and other organisms, a condition known as traveller’s diarrhoea.

Overexposure to the sun during summer holidays could result in an array of heat related ailments such as sunburn, heat stroke or heat exhaustion. “Drink enough water, eat regularly, get enough rest, wear sunglasses and a sun hat, use a high factor sun lotion when you do go out, and avoid the sun between 10h00 and 16h00. Also moderate your alcohol intake,” advises Dr Roets.

“The bottom line is that it is especially annoying to fall ill or sustain an injury when you are on holiday, a time when you most want to be enjoying yourself,” she points out. “However, if you practice good hygiene and take care of yourself and your family you can do a great deal to avoid illness and injury.”


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare 911
Contact: Martina Nicholson or Graeme Swinney
Telephone: (011) 469 3016

Email: or


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