The long-awaited sunshine enjoyed in parts of the UK this past week will no doubt have got many of us in the mood for a holiday, with some tempting last-minute deals on 'winter sun' getaways to be found. But would you be willing to jet-off to an exotic destination without the recommended vaccinations or malaria protection?
According to new independent research, commissioned by our Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service, one in ten people from the UK have travelled abroad without the advisable inoculations or anti-malaria medication.
A third of these claimed they didn't have enough time, because they booked the holiday late. Others weren't aware of the official health advice and some admitted they didn't feel they needed to worry about the dangers because they were in good health.
Keeping safe in the sun
With the summer season still a couple of months away, many Brits travel beyond Europe at this time of year - and it can be easy to forget that you might need more than sun cream to protect your health.
Awareness is key, as one in three of those who have travelled abroad without taking health precautions, say they didn't know it was advisable. Immunisation against Typhoid, Hepatitis A and Diphtheria are common recommendations for many longer-haul destinations - and you could find some, such as Yellow Fever, are a mandatory requirement. You may also be at high risk of catching malaria in some popular tourist destinations - such as Goa, Kenya and Gambia.
The NHS Fit For Travel website is an easy way to check the latest travel advice before you make a booking.
Caught out by malaria
In 2010 Cheryl Cole hit the headlines when she fell ill with malaria after a holiday in Tanzania. The life-threatening disease is spread via infected mosquitoes and is particularly prevalent in areas in Africa and Asia. The singer is believed to have spent time in hospital and missed X Factor appearances while she battled the illness.
Ms Cole is certainly not alone either, official statistics from Public Health England show more than 1000 cases of imported malaria in the UK every year. There are multiple forms of malaria and around seven in every ten cases in Britain are thought to be the more serious form, known as Plasmodium falciparum.
Symptoms usually begin a week to 18 days after becoming infected, but can take a lot longer depending on the strain of malaria. It is often flu-like at first, with high temperature, chills, headache and sickness, and can develop into a very serious condition.
Despite news last month about malaria vaccination trials in Africa, there is no immunisation currently available for holidaymakers. Anti-malaria tablets remain the best protection for travellers - reducing the likelihood of the disease taking hold.
There are various types of malaria prevention tablets, including the Malarone, Doxycycline, and Lariam brands. Malarone and a cheaper generic alternative, which has the same active ingredients (atovaquone and proguanil), are often popular choices for patients and only need to be started a couple of days before travel.
The savvy last-minute traveller
You don't want to find yourself in a situation where your flights are confirmed, but you or a family member doesn't have time for the programme of vaccinations or boosters. It's a good idea to seek medical advice at least eight weeks before you depart for your holiday and if you're a seasoned last-minute traveller, keep up to date with relevant vaccinations.
Malaria tablets can be accessed fairly quickly - a few days if you use our online travel clinic, or you could arrange an appointment with your GP or a local clinic. Remember to follow the instructions carefully - start taking them before you depart (up to three weeks before in some cases) and complete the full course of tablets to minimise the likelihood of becoming ill.
So be a savvy traveller and bag yourself a late deal, but don't dampen your holiday with a potentially life-threatening illness. To limit the risk of returning with more than you bargained for, remember to keep track of the latest NHS guidance, check requirements for the countries you plan to visit and give yourself enough time to be immunised or seek the necessary medication.