It’s every holiday-maker’s worst nightmare: falling ill while abroad, and having your time away totally ruined. Here’s what to look out for so you don’t end up under the weather – and what steps to take if you do
By Carl Waring
Brexit or no Brexit, we’re still all jetting away in our millions, desperate for some much-needed rays on our Vitamin D-starved skin — even with the shocking decline in the pound. With terrorism atrocities and fears striking some tourism hotspots, more of us than ever are holidaying closer to home, especially in reliable old Spain — a glorious land of year-round sunshine, and everything to light up all the senses.
In fact, almost eight million Brits travelled to Spain in the first half of this year — an astonishing rise of 16.5% on the same period in 2015, according to new Spanish figures. Many are opting for the beauty of Barcelona, or the deeper heat of the Costas, as well as the perennial good-time attractions of the Balearic islands of Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza.
With more of us now counting our pennies than ever before, the lure of the all-inclusive Spanish holiday has never been greater. They’re not just for families on a budget, either — increasingly, friends and couples are taking up this option, too. Who could imagine you’d get so much for so little?
With flights, accommodation, food, drink, and entertainment all mixed into one shimmering Spanish package, everything’s taken care of before you even set foot on the plane. It’s not only about money, either; it’s about convenience, too, as everything you need to enjoy a fabulous holiday is right there for you. There’s no need to go out hunting for a different restaurant every night, hoping there’ll be something on the menu you’ll like.
But as with everything, there comes a risk, and in any place where lots of chefs are making meals for lots of people, there’s always the chance of a slip-up or two. Hygiene standards in even the most professional of resort kitchens can be sub-standard, and it’s often the guests who pay the price. Plus, as many meal sittings are buffet-style affairs, the food can often be left out for long periods, and what’s not used may be recycled for the next sitting.
All at Sea (Sick)
It’s not just those who choose the all-in package holiday who are at risk, either. Passengers on board a dozen or so cruise liners operating around the world are struck down each year with bugs that cause vomiting and diarrhoea, according to annual figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.
Whether on land or at sea, the common norovirus is quite often the culprit — a highly infectious agent that can also cause headaches, fever, aches in the limbs, and even stomach cramps. It’s an arresting combination of symptoms that suck the joy right out of any getaway. Unfortunately, there’s no specific medication to combat norovirus, and all those suffering with it can do is stay on the paracetamol, and wait it out for a few days.
Norovirus is especially easy to pick up while on all-in package holidays, because along with being transferred from person to person through exhaled breath, it can survive outside the host body for a number of days, waiting until someone touches an infected surface and picks it up.
If you get sick while holidaying in Spain on an all-inclusive package, and you suspect it’s because of something you ate or drank at your hotel, it’s important to realise that it most likely was not your fault, and you may be entitled to claim compensation. After all, the hotel has a responsibility to provide a safe, clean environment for its guests; if people become ill because of what they provided, the establishment must take responsibility.
Britons are far from shy in making personal Injury claims when they fall ill while abroad on holiday. In 2012 alone, 337,000 British holidaymakers filed claims for medical treatment they received while overseas, with an average payout of £815.
Up to now, many UK travellers have relied on the European Health Insurance Card scheme to get free treatment while in a European country, but some hospitals still charge — and besides, the card may soon become a thing of the past for Britons, as we prepare to leave the European Union.
If you fall ill from suspected food poisoning at your hotel or resort while in Spain, here’s what you need to do:
- Get immediate medical attention
- Report what happened to the hotel management, your travel rep, and your travel agent in the UK
- Record as many names and contact details of hotel staff and management, as well as any witnesses. This will be highly useful in proving any claims
- Also try to take photographs — buffets, dirty parts of the hotel, and other potential factors
- Make sure you keep all medical notes, prescriptions, and receipts
Once you follow these guidelines, you can go ahead with a No Win, No Fee personal injury claim that won’t leave you out of pocket if it doesn’t succeed, and hopefully get what you’re entitled to.
After all that, you’ll probably need another holiday — a far more relaxing, enjoyable one, this time.
Carl Waring is a senior solicitor with Mayiclaim, and has over 25 years of experience in compensation claims and legal disputes.