Avoiding health problems

If you become ill while away

If you become ill while staying in a hotel, ask the receptionist to call a doctor. If you need urgent attention, contact the emergency services or visit the emergency department of the nearest hospital. If you have time, try to seek help and advice from a doctor or nurse who speaks the same language as you – the Foreign and Commonwealth Office may be able to help.

Contacting relatives

Keep the names and addresses of friends and relatives with your passport so that British Consular officials can contact them if their help is needed. It is important to keep these details up to date for each time you travel.

If you need to return to the UK quickly, you should also contact British Consular officials (see the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website for details). They can usually arrange this for you, but you may need to pay the costs.

Eating and drinking

Wherever you are in the world, be careful about what you eat and drink.

Many infectious diseases are spread by contaminated food and water. This includes water in swimming pools, lakes, rivers and the sea, so try not to swallow water when you’re swimming.

Tips for avoiding stomach upsets

  • If you’re not sure that drinking water is clean, you should sterilise it. You can do this by boiling it for one minute, or by using a filtering system or sterilisation tablets. At high altitudes, you may need to boil water for longer than usual to sterilise it properly.
  • Use bottled water if you are not sure that the water is clean.
  • Make sure that seals on bottles of water are not broken before opening.
  • Avoid ice unless you’re sure it is made from safe water.
  • Only eat freshly cooked food that has been cooked thoroughly and is still hot.
  • Avoid uncooked food, unless you can peel or shell it yourself.
  • Avoid food that may have been exposed to flies, such as food from street traders.
  • Avoid ice cream from unreliable sources, such as kiosks.
  • Avoid or boil unpasteurised milk.
  • Be careful when eating shellfish – they may contain harmful bacteria. Make sure shellfish is cooked thoroughly, or avoid eating it.


In some countries, diseases can be spread by insects and ticks. Always use insect repellent (preferably containing DEET – diethyl-m-toluamide), and cover your arms and legs with appropriate clothing (especially if you’re walking in grassy or wooded areas).


Animal bites can lead to dangerous infections. It’s important to be careful, even with animals that seem tame. The animals in many regions, including most of Europe and North America, can carry rabies. If you are bitten, clean the wound carefully with soap and water, apply an antiseptic if you can and see a doctor immediately.

Back to Staying safe

Taking care in the sun

During and after cancer treatment, it‘s very important to protect your skin from the sun.