One in five get sick on holiday

Monday , 16 May 2016 by Aimee Bourke

Sickly sightseers, green globetrotters and tepid tourists – unfortunately, most of us have either been or seen these types of travellers struggling through a holiday.

And now new research from Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) has proven the likelihood of getting sick while travelling is statistically quite high.

A recent survey of 2,002 Kiwis has shown that one in five New Zealanders require medical assistance while holidaying overseas.

While it’s illness rather than an accident that’s most likely to side-line you during a trip overseas, this is unlikely to bring you much comfort says SCTI CEO Craig Morrison.

Of those that needed medical help:

  • 27% had diarrhoea and/or vomiting
  • 18% got a viral infection
  • 13% sprained a body part or broke a bone
  • 12% were cut or wounded
  • 11% were dehydrated

“Unfamiliar food, late nights, a lack of sleep and too much sun – these are all reasons why travellers get run down and sick,” says Morrison.

While these ailments would usually require a quick trip to the pharmacy or hospital for some medication and treatment, depending on where you are in the world this can be quite a costly experience.

“Given our free public health system here in New Zealand, the vast majority of Kiwis don’t have an understanding of what healthcare actually costs. The true figures are probably quite shocking to most people.”

Morrison cited the example of one Kiwi traveller who was recently treated for influenza in Canada.

“The flu exacerbated their asthma and the patient needed the be admitted to hospital. The hospital and prescription costs were over $9,700 and the return flight home with a medical escort was $28,840. That’s nearly $40,000 that most Kiwis simply don’t have lying around.”

Another example from the SCTI files was a traveller to the United States who was unlucky enough to get food poisoning, presenting with both vomiting and diarrhoea. Admitted to hospital for exactly 3 hours and 18 minutes, the total cost was a whopping $15,526.

“We’ve all heard deli-belly stories that’ll turn your stomach but when that’s your reality and you need to seek medical treatment overseas, it’s anything but a joke.”

Sickly travellers reported India and Nepal to be the area where you’re most likely to get sick while visiting, followed by North Africa, South East Asia and China.

“A lot of people have a ‘it won’t happen to me’ attitude, but this survey shows that travellers often need help when holidaying,” says Morrison.