Dr Phil Hammond, GP, lecturer and presenter of the BBC2 programme Trust Me, I'm a Doctor

The Department of Health is preparing its 2001 guidelines for holiday makers. Here's the latest draft – please direct all suggestions for alterations to the Chief Medical Officer.

Why do people go mad on holiday?

Who knows? You're somewhere exotic, you're drunk, you've burnt to a frazzle, you're free from the restraints of your tedious little life in Old Sodbury and you're surrounded by people who feel likewise. Only they don't live in Old Sodbury.

So you fall under the misapprehension that you can do what you like without comeback – drive a moped without a helmet, dive into a pool without water and exchange bodily fluids without a barrier.

Meaning?

Holidays and high-risk behaviour seem to go hand in hand.

For example, researchers handed out anonymous questionnaires to 464 attendees at a UK sexual health clinic who had been abroad recently.

Of these, 28.4% admitted to sex with a new partner abroad, with only 41.7 per cent consistently using condoms. Twenty-nine per cent had more than one partner. The first partner abroad for 63% of men and 62.5% of women was of a non-UK nationality.

Never mind all that. What do you know about jellyfish?

They're free-swimming gelatinous invertebrates with no brain or anus. Why?

Because they scare the hell out of me. Especially that Portuguese Man of War.

Where are you going on holiday?

Barmouth.

Well there you are then. Nearly all jellyfish give you nothing more than a sting, and the few that can kill are all confined to tropical areas.

Besides, the PMOW is easy to spot on account of the fact that it floats on the surface with a brightly coloured inflated bladder.

If there's a head on it, it's Gazza. If it's got a trail of venomous tentacles up to 30 metres long, it's poison.

Either way, give it a wide berth.

And sunbathe instead?

In moderation. Remember there are 40000 new cases of skin cancer every year. So shop around for a hat with a brim of at least 3 feet and whack on lotion with a sun protection factor of at least 666.

Oh, and stay indoors during daylight hours.

Now, holiday heart syndrome

Not more sex?

Nice try. In fact, it's an irregular heartbeat caused by heavy alcohol consumption on holiday.

And does it kill you?

Not if your heart is otherwise healthy. It tends to go after 24 hours.

More important is the risk of getting a clot in a leg vein during a long haul flight. The only way to avoid this is to sprint continuously up and down the aisle throughout the flight (crash landings excepted).

Look, I'm fed up with this nanny state pap What can I do to ensure I have a really unhealthy high-risk holiday that could finish me off?

  • Pat all cats, dogs and wildly salivating animals.
  • Drink only unpasteurised milk, dodgy tap water and vast quantities of the local brew distilled from cane sugar and full of bits. Oh, and put ice in everything.
  • Eat only undercooked meat, raw shellfish, runny eggs, well-fingered salads, unheard of brands of ice-cream and anything covered in flies.
  • Ask the cook not to wash his hands after using the toilet.
  • Don't wash yours either.
  • Choose a high risk malaria area, refuse to take any tablets, don't use an insect repellant and always sleep naked by a swamp.
  • Don't bother with immunisations.
  • Climb mountains as quickly as you can. If you get a headache and breathlessness, soldier on.
  • Drive on the British side.
  • Don't take out any travel insurance.
  • Dive headfirst into water without checking the depth.
  • Ask where the mugging trouble-spots are and head for them.
  • Don't waste your money on holiday insurance.
  • Smuggle as many drugs as possible out of Thailand and wear an extra cardy to make you sweat excessively.
  • And don't forget to pat the dog.

Guidelines in Practice, April 2001, Volume 4(4)
© 2001 MGP Ltd
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