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Going away for the holidays

Travelling to another part of the country tends to be on the cards for the festive season, but, as fun as it is, there are a few health risks that may pose a challenge to enjoying your time away this summer. Changing location means facing changes in altitude, humidity, dealing with air, water and food-borne bacteria, as well as differences in temperature, which could cause illness. It is important to stay on top of checking levels of hygiene and sanitation and make sure you have the medical services or equipment you will need while away from home – no one likes to get sick on holiday. It is also essential to have a good rest after working hard all year, so below are some travel hacks to help you survive the South African heat these holidays.

HITTING THE ROAD

  • Before you get onto the road, ensure you’re as rested as possible, especially for long-distance trips across the country.
  • Play some loud music to keep you alert during the trip
  • Have a licensed driving partner who can take over the wheel whenever you need to rest.
  • Take regular pit stops at your nearest refresher point, such as a petrol station, to take a bathroom break, refeed, refuel and rehydrate.

NAVIGATE MOTION SICKNESS

  • Your first tip is to decrease the motion – sit in the front of the car and try and look at a fixed point ahead of you, such as a mountain peak in the distant horizon.
  • Breathe fresh air if possible; open a car window or turn on the air conditioning directly ahead of your seat, as the feeling of cool air on your face can also help. You can also keep a brown paper bag handy to use as a breathing regulator.
  • Motion sickness tablets can help if taken at least 30 minutes before you travel. Home remedies, such as ginger, are also popularly believed to be effective in reducing nausea.

ALTITUDE, HEAT AND HUMIDITY

  • Prepare yourselves for the gradual change in climate as you transition from one region to another. Once you arrive, you need to adjust to the climate of the region as quickly as possible: have a shower, and change clothing accordingly.
  • Take medication as needed to help with difficulties in breathing. There is medication for altitude sickness (ask your doctor during your check-up before you go away), but it’s also worth packing some anti-nauseous medication and paracetamol for headaches. Take 2-3 days to get used to high altitude before going above 3,000m. Then, try to avoid climbing more than 300-500m in a day. If you’re struggling, go back to lower ground before attempting to climb any higher.
  • Wear SPF30 sunscreen for protection and ensure your sunscreen brand has at least a four-star UVA rating. Check your sunscreen is in date, as out-of-date creams lose their effectiveness. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially after swimming, towel drying or if you’ve been sweating. Stay out of direct sunlight and move into a cooler place.
  • Humidity is not necessarily related to heat – it is to do with how much water vapour is in the air, however it can be dangerous to your health if you are outdoors in hot, humid weather for long stretches of time. Open the windows to make the heat more bearable. Make use of your air conditioners. Alternatively, get a portable air cooling unit or a dehumidifier so you can cool down in a more economical way than using air conditioning.
  • Stay hydrated, eat cooling foods like popsicles and ice-cream, and avoid being too active indoors. You can also do some of the following activities to escape the heat and cool off:
    • Public centres: spend an afternoon browsing for cool, light summer clothes in an air-conditioned mall. Watch a movie in a cinema or visit a local museum or library to blow off some steam.
    • Swimming Pools: An obvious choice – if you can’t beat the humidity, getting into a cool pool will certainly make you feel better.

DON’T LET ANY BUG BITE

  • Avoid wearing products with strong perfumes such as soaps, shampoo and deodorants, as these can attract insects like bees.
  • Apply insect repellent to exposed skin, especially after sunset.
  • Cover your skin by wearing long sleeves and trousers in the evening, and wear shoes when you’re outside.
  • If you are stung – remove the sting or tick if it’s still in the skin and wash the affected area with an anti-septic liquid – do not scratch the area.
  • If you’re visiting a malaria area, you’ll need to buy antimalarial tablets from your GP and ensure that you finish the course completely to prevent infection.
  • As soon as you start to notice your skin reddening, move out of direct sunlight: either go inside or sit in the shade.

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN

  • Have a bottle of anti-bacterial sanitiser handy to remove germs off your hands.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food (and after touching animals or going to the loo).
  • Eat food that is piping hot and avoid food that has been kept warm or that has cooled down outdoors. Make sure to braai your food properly so you don’t contract food poisoning.
  • Be careful with fish and shellfish – uncooked fish can make you very ill.

TOUCH BASE WITH YOUR MEDICAL INSURANCE

  • Remember to take your Affinity Health membership cards with you wherever you go. We have over 2000 network GPs located across the country to help you when medically necessary, along with 16 Medical Society centres situated in key locations across the country to help you with mild and seasonal infections, as well as minor injuries, such as cuts and burns.
  • Use the iER App to send any alerts for assistance should you face an emergency.
  • Call us on 0861 11 00 33 for assistance with claiming your benefits, getting pre-authorisation and finding your nearest medical provider. You can also send a WhatsApp message to our Customer Care Team on 079 479 3230 during office hours, or our 24/7 Pre-Authorisation Team on 071 314 5862, and we will gladly help you. You can also send us your questions on the Affinity Health Facebook page, and your query will be resolved as soon as it is received.

We wish all our members safe travels during the festive season, and good health going into the new year.

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