Excess baggage on your way home? But did you really mean to pack the holiday illness as well?


You looked forward to it for months and now, all too soon, it's over. If your summer holiday this year was one of those once-in-a-blue-moon trips to a sun-soaked tropical paradise, you're likely to remember it for ever.

Holiday Airplane Illness Abroad

But we want to make sure those holiday memories are not the sort you'd sooner quickly forget. For this reason we've put together a short digest of some illnesses which have an unpleasant habit of smuggling themselves back from holiday with you, waiting a week or so and then, if you're unlucky, pouncing.

So over to our travel expert Nick Harris, who'll take you through what to look out for in holiday illnesses:

First, Giardiasis, a stomach infection common in Africa, Turkey and former Soviet bloc countries. It shows up as severe diarrhoea, exhaustion and malodorous belching. Giardiasis is one reason why it's wise to use bottled mineral water in such regions, since it's usually caused by infected water in drinks, ice cubes and food, and from swimming in rivers and lakes.

On infection, the giardiasis parasites multiply in the intestines before the worst symptoms appear. These can be killed by antiprotozoal medication, but only proper treatment will stop the disease from recurrence. Get medical help early, and – as with all the holiday illnesses discussed here – tell your doctor or practice nurse where you've been on holiday.

Dengue fever, or breakbone fever, is an infectious viral tropical disease which can be caused by mosquito bites. It's widespread in tropical and sub-tropical regions like the Seychelles, Central America and South-East Asia.

Normal symptoms are fever and very painful joints, with severe headaches behind the eyes which can strike up to 2 weeks after your holiday. Look out also for a bright red rash around 5 days after fever starts.

Bed-rest will probably help you recover, but if you've a severe bout of dengue fever, or if you've underlying health issues, you might need to go to hospital. Best thing to do is chat with your doctor as soon as you see any symptoms.

Malaria is another mosquito-borne infectious disease. Normally showing between 1 week and several months after a tropical or sub-tropical holiday, malaria's symptoms include fever, shivering, painful joints and vomiting.

Don't be fooled; early symptoms of malaria can be mistaken for flu. If a severe case takes hold, you could experience anaemia, fits, fluid on the lungs, kidney failure and loss of consciousness. Malaria can even be fatal.

But what if you took anti-malarial precautions before your holiday? What if you don't think you encountered mosquitoes? You could still have contracted malaria – it's just that the medication might have delayed the symptoms, and you can easily have been bitten without realising it.

Also remember that some anti-malarial medicines have to be taken for up to 1 month after your return, so don't stop taking them just because you've touched down.

If you spot any signs of malaria, which can come on suddenly, it's vital you obtain medical help as soon as possible. See your GP or, if you get the symptoms on a weekend, go to A&E. Your treatment will depend on where you've returned from and which anti-malarial medication – if any – you took before going. So make sure your doctor knows all the facts and can perform the right blood tests.

If between 2 and 6 weeks of getting home you feel lethargic or nauseous, and if your skin and the whites of your eyes appear yellow, it's possible you've contracted Hepatitis A. Other symptoms to look out for include bruising, bleeding and confusion.

Often transmitted by dirty food – and therefore easily mistaken for a bout of food poisoning – Hepatitis A is an acute infectious liver disease which is rife in many hot climates, such as areas of Central and South America, Africa and Asia.

Hepatitis A is potentially fatal, so if you notice any of the above symptoms – bearing in mind that a suntan can hide yellowed skin – see a doctor straight away.

Lyme disease, widespread in central Europe, shows itself as a 'bull's-eye' rash – a bright red skin patch which fades in the middle, sometimes occurring with muscle and joint pain, fever, headaches and fatigue.

Lyme disease, which is caused by tick-bites, can be contracted in Britain, particularly in places like the New Forest and the Scottish Highlands. It can take a month to show itself – and even then, not automatically on the part of your body where you were bitten.

See your GP as soon as you can, since complications like nerve damage, arthritis and damage to your heart rhythm can arise if lyme disease isn't caught in good time. You'll need blood tests, followed by a course of antibiotics to prevent more serious complications.

As ever, prevention is better than cure. So wear long trousers if you're planning rambling through any areas where there might be infected ticks.

Have you noticed red or painful calf muscles in one leg a few days after flying home? You could have deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). Here 1 or more blood clots are formed in your leg veins, which can break loose and travel to your heart or lungs, with the potential to cause a fatal blockage.

Since dehydration makes the blood easily clot, DVTs are more likely when travelling from somewhere hot. The flight itself doesn't help, especially if it's a long one and you're cramped in the same position for several hours (it's a good idea to regularly move around the plane if you get the chance). The pregnant, overweight and elderly are most at risk from DVT, as are smokers and women on the contraceptive pill or HRT.

If you've any of the above symptoms it's important to see your doctor, who'll arrange for a confirmation scan. Heparin anti-coagulation injections or warfarin can arrest a clot, while compression stockings can lower the risk of its reappearance.

However, if you're suffering severe breathlessness and chest pains and you're coughing-up blood in the same week after flying home, it could mean a clot has travelled to your lung and caused a pulmonary embolus: a blockage which can lead to a heart attack.

This is a real emergency, so dial 999, try to keep off your feet and only move as much as you have to. If you have someone to help you, so much the better, but you need to get to A&E quickly. A scan will tell consultants if the artery to your lung is blocked, while surgery might be necessary. As with a DVT, expect to be taking anti-coagulation pills daily for about 6 months after.

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