Travel health advice in the winter

Services development

Travel health advice in the winter

Running a travel health clinic is becoming an attractive proposition for many pharmacies, and the benefits are obvious all year round


With business travel being a year-round concern for many customers, and winter holidays ever-popular, having a one-stop shop for all travel needs is a convenient way to increase footfall and sales at any time of year. Many pharmacies are also providing a travel vaccination service.

According to Kantar Worldpanel, sales of traditional holiday essentials have slumped in recent years. Suncare product sales, in particular, dropped across all sectors by 4.1 per cent to £180.9 million in January 2016 from £188.5 million in January 2015, so pharmacies need to look at new ways of encouraging customers back in for advice and to purchase the products and services that will help them stay safe and well while they are abroad.

“When customers are heading to an exotic location, a pharmacist is well-placed and highly trained to recommend the appropriate non-prescription medicines and other travel products that can be taken to treat conditions such as headaches, diarrhoea and insect bites, and they can also offer advice on the additional medications or vaccinations people may need,” says pharmacist Steve Riley.

Superdrug pharmacies have taken advantage of the popularity of travel clinics, with the chain now offering a travel clinic service both in-store and online. Free holiday and travel advice is available in any pharmacy store, and selected stores also offer travel vaccinations. “For patients, getting travel vaccines and travel medication can be made easy by reading information online on how to protect themselves in different countries or by booking an appointment,” says a company spokesperson. Superdrug has more than 60 travel clinics in the UK that are able to deliver 11 different travel vaccinations. Its travel clinics have been hugely successful, it says, with a 35 per cent increase in vaccinations delivered over the past year.

“Travel consultations can be booked in 30-minute appointment slots to ensure there is dedicated time to spend with the patient,” says the spokesperson. “During these consultations, a nurse or pharmacist will undertake a comprehensive consultation with the patient and advise them on any vaccinations and malaria medication that they require and offer tips on how to stay healthy during their trip. If appropriate, they will then administer these vaccines or dispense the malaria medication in the clinic.”

For patients who require other healthcare services for their holiday, Superdrug also offers an Online Pharmacy and Online Doctor service.

Many travellers admit to leaving their travel vaccination planning to the last minute, and community pharmacies are in an ideal position to help by offering convenient, accessible, locations and extended opening hours. Recent research by Superdrug showed that 48 per cent of travellers don’t take the time to check whether they need to take extra precautionary measures when travelling abroad because they assume the country they are visiting is safe.

Do you have what you need?

One-quarter of people reported they have been sick while away on a holiday during the past four years. The most commonly reported illnesses that have ruined holidays are diarrhoea (63 per cent), vomiting (46 per cent), a sore throat (22 per cent) and infections (9 per cent). Without the appropriate products to hand, it can be difficult to deal with symptoms quickly and effectively. Sixty-two per cent admitted to not packing a first aid kit, 60 per cent forgot to pack diarrhoea relief, 71 per cent didn’t bother with antihistamine creams and 72 per cent didn’t think to take antiseptic products.

Reminding travellers of the need to think about holiday health, with all-year-round leaflets, displays and travel advice, can be a useful way to drive home the importance of travel health at any time of year.

“Pharmacy is a one-stop shop for holiday-makers preparing to go away, and the pharmacy team is well placed to offer advice and guidance on the travel health essentials that consumers should be considering,” says a spokesperson for Kwells.

“Motion or travel sickness is something that affects many travellers, be it getting to the destination via air travel or committing to an excursion when away, such as a bus or boat trip. Pharmacy teams should enquire what type of holiday the consumer is going on to determine what information and advice is most appropriate.”

Kwells advises that pharmacy teams need to take a proactive approach when they are talking to their customers about travel plans, to make sure they are covered for all their potential travel sickness needs. All too often, people neglect to consider this until it’s too late and they are already suffering.

Women, particularly pregnant or menstruating women, tend to be more susceptible to travel sickness, and anyone who suffers from migraines is more likely to feel the effects of travel sickness symptoms. “Melt-in-the-mouth tablets such as Kwells are fast-acting and help to prevent travel sickness taking hold,” says the spokesperson. “They can even be taken at the onset of nausea.”

Although most consumers are aware of the dangers of sun exposure to their skin, many aren’t aware that dehydration from spending long periods in the sun can also be dangerous, and can even lead to heatstroke.

Anti-diarrhoeal tablets and oral rehydration solutions can help avoid dehydration after too much sun exposure, as well as if the dreaded holiday tummy strikes.

“Heatstroke is often more prevalent in hotter climates and is due to periods of hot weather and high humidity, often in connection with physical activity and sweating,” says Dr Roger Henderson, spokesperson for Dioralyte. Dioralyte Relief is the only rehydration brand to contain added rice powder. It works to relieve dehydration faster and more effectively than plain water, fruit juice or other drinks in adults and children over three months.

Is Zika still a threat?

Since May 2015, when the first confirmed reports of Zika infection were reported from Brazil and other South and Central American countries, there have been further reports of outbreaks, mainly in the Caribbean and Oceania (Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia). It’s likely that there will be more cases reported in other parts of the world as surveillance and detection of the virus improve, so it’s vital that customers travelling to these areas are warned about taking precautions against mosquito bites.

“We are expecting more Zika cases in South America and the Caribbean over the winter,” says Michelle Sellors, specialist nurse (travel health) at MASTA. “We’re now starting to get cases reported in parts of south-east Asia, too, so we keep up to date with Public Health England’s travel advice. As with many areas of travel health, the situation is constantly evolving, so a regular review of official resources is important.”

There’s up-to-date advice on mosquito bite avoidance, specific advice for pregnant women and advice regarding sexual transmission on the PHE website at

Malaria remains a significant concern for travellers. “It’s important to remember malaria advice and/or medication when travelling to affected areas,” says Ms Sellors. “There were a number of malaria cases reported in the UK a few years ago due to people booking last-minute holidays to Gambia over Christmas without taking malaria tablets.”

Colder climes

Winter sports are becoming increasingly popular, according to MASTA, with an estimated £450 million spent on snow sports each year in the UK. The most common injury in skiers is ligament damage around the knee joint, often caused when bindings don’t release the skis as they should do during a fall, while snowboarders tend to injure wrists and shoulders when they instinctively hold out an arm to brace themselves.

“As far as skiing holidays go, good insurance cover is a must,” says Ms Sellors. “Advise travellers to wear wrist guards and helmets and always take sun protection for skin and eyes.”

Many insurance policies require people to wear a ski helmet on the slopes, regardless of local policies, according to government advice sheet ‘Make sure your winter sports holiday doesn’t go downhill’, that is available at A ‘ski safe checklist’ suggests that people should: take out comprehensive travel insurance, have a medical check-up before leaving and give the correct medical information to the insurer, wear the right equipment, avoid drinking and skiing, watch their speed and stay in their comfort zone while skiing.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) needs renewing every five years, so it is worth reminding people to check their expiry date. Some insurers insist that their customers hold an EHIC. People can visit for the latest travel advice for the country being visited.


Sara Baco, Avicenna Pharmacy, Braintree, Essex “We don’t get that many people in for travel advice in the winter, but it’s an all-year category. Some people come in for malaria tablets, and then we can also supply them with the other things that they need for going away. The DEET sprays are very popular for people going to Thailand and the Far East and on cruises. But the majority of our customers don’t often travel in winter, it’s just the lucky few. I did the training for the travel service in July, although I haven’t carried out any vaccinations yet – but I plan to soon. We have started to put the word out and I think the service will bring in revenue. We plan to be a yellow fever centre soon too, once I’ve done the training for that in December.”

Mithun Makwana, Avicenna Pharmacy, Bristol “We run a travel clinic in the pharmacy; I did my first vaccination in August and the service is picking up well now. I’ve already administered a range of different travel vaccinations, from hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, typhoid, meningitis and yellow fever. We are getting more referrals from the surgeries; I’ve let the surgeries know that we offer the service and they are directing patients to us – it saves them time. We have a very good relationship with the surgery and they are always helpful. I’m proud of our travel clinic, and it’s quite a good revenue generator too. We advertise it through a poster in the window and people are getting to know about it.”

Ali Hashemian, Avicenna Pharmacy, Swindon “We’ve run a travel clinic here for two years now and it’s working well. I think it’s definitely a very successful way of expanding the business. Marketing is the most important aspect, so that people know about it – though I don’t think that it’s quite established yet with people that they should come to the pharmacy for their travel vaccinations. Letting the surgery know, so that patients can be referred is a definite help, and our local surgery has been very willing to send patients. Of course, patients can receive some of the vaccines free of charge in the surgery, but there are some vaccines, such as rabies and meningitis, that they don’t provide – so patients come down and get the rest from me.”

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