Ill while on holiday. You can take some matters into your own hands! 

July 2022 ● 5 mins reading time


By: Janna Bailey-de Boer, non-practising General Practitioner and Senior Medical Consultant at Quin.

From diarrhoea to inflamed mosquito bites and from a high fever to a rash. You may not always realise it, but you can fall ill on holiday too. So, what should you do if you experience health problems while abroad? 

We all look forward to spending a few weeks away from the rat race, but there is still a chance you might catch a bug on your well-deserved holiday. Research by the Dutch College of General Practitioners has shown that one in five Dutch people suffered health problems while they were abroad last year. 

The most common complaints? Insect bites, gastrointestinal problems, skin rashes, STIs and earaches after flying or swimming. Not life-threatening conditions, but they can be annoying if you experience any of them during your holiday. And especially if you are in the middle of nowhere. 


Inflamed mosquito bites

I myself have heard countless stories from patients. For example, someone was on holiday on a tropical island in Brazil. It was swarming with mosquitoes, which is nothing strange for a tropical locale. But when he woke up the next morning, his right leg was red and swollen, and he could hardly take a step. 

It was obviously a mosquito bite, so he was not afraid that it was caused by some horrific disease,  yet it was inflamed. So, what is a person to do when they speak almost no Portuguese? Eventually, he started googling, and after a series of panic-inducing articles and photos, he came across a tip for an anti-inflammatory ointment. Using all sorts of hand gestures, he managed to pick some up at a pharmacy, and two days later the symptoms had largely disappeared. 

"We know that when people go on holiday, they first google their symptoms, just like they do at home."

Reliable advice

In the Netherlands, you would go to the doctor with an infection like that. But when abroad, the threshold can tend to be a bit higher because you may not always speak the language, or because the nearest hospital is miles away. At times like that, it is nice not to have to go through a medical merry-go-round. You can generally manage very well with self-care for minor ailments, even on holiday. 

We know that when people go on holiday, they first google their symptoms, just like they do at home. Last year, for example, thirty per cent of ill holidaymakers searched the internet for information about their symptoms. As a GP, you want people to be able to fall back on reliable advice in that jungle of information. This is possible with Ada Health’s symptom checker in the Quin app. 

When you fill it in, you receive a list of possible causes for your symptoms. If self-care is appropriate, you receive advice on how to reduce your symptoms and tips for medication that you can buy over the counter. And if your doctor is affiliated with Quin, you can always ask a question via the chat function. 


Quite costly

Are your complaints urgent and do you need urgent medical assistance? Call the emergency number of the country you are in immediately. Are your symptoms non-life-threatening, but do you want a doctor to examine you anyway? Health care systems vary from country to country. If you are not careful, a doctor’s visit can turn out to be quite costly. It is therefore wise to check with your health insurer first. 

The Quin app is also useful if you have to go to a GP or hospital. With it, you have all your medical data in your GP’s file in your pocket. You can then share this information with the doctors if necessary. 


Well-equipped and well-rested!

Of course, you can also take care of a number of things before going on holiday. For example, read up on common illnesses in your holiday country. Check whether you need vaccinations and save the details of your health insurance and local emergency numbers in your phone. Also bring a first aid kit with painkillers, mosquito repellent, diarrhoea medicines, disinfectants and bandages with you.  

Do you have children? Then also consider bringing ORS for dehydration and worm pills with you. You can buy these at your local chemist’s. Are you visiting areas where access to medical care is limited? Then you can ask your doctor for a course of antibiotics. After all, you will be a lot worse off if you end up with a bacterial infection in the middle of a desert plain or the Peruvian jungle.  

The most important thing? Go on holiday well-rested! You have no idea how often people with stressful lives fall ill on holiday. Just when they are finally relaxing on their lounger by the sea, it strikes. The remedy? A better balance between work and relaxation. And that is something you can start even before your holiday! 

About Quin

Good, accessible healthcare, now and in the future, is essential. Quin contributes by supporting every step in the care process with digital tools. This gives professionals more room for the patient and enables patients to take more control of their care.