Our essential guide to health-related travel gadgets
From those of us heading on activity breaks to travellers with existing conditions and those who just want a little more confidence when away from home, here’s our guide to the essential holiday health gadgets and apps.
It’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever need to bother a doctor while you’re on holiday, but planning ahead can help remove anxiety and cover all possibilities – leaving you more time to lie back and relax. From portable health gadgets to the ultimate first aid kit – we’ve all the info you need right here…
Do we really need to worry about health on holiday?
It’s unlikely – but it’s best to be prepared
Most of us will fly to foreign shores and enjoy a sun-soaked sojourn without any ill-effects whatsoever, but there are some good reasons why we should all consider packing some health-related gadgets or apps when heading on holiday. Can you spot yourself in this list?
Those with pre-existing health conditions: Thousands people suffer from conditions such as high blood pressure, angina and diabetes, but this should not stop them travelling. However, while a doctor may have declared them fit to travel, the anxiety of being away from familiar medical professionals can cause severe anxiety. Taking health gadgets can help ease the worry and give those affected the confidence to travel.
Activity holiday fan: Perhaps you’re heading off skiing, or taking a cycling holiday? Increased temperatures, reduced oxygen levels (in mountains) and changes to diets can all upset the sportsman’s body. Many health gadgets we include here can help monitor your body’s progress and let you know if you’re overdoing it. They can also help improve your performance, too.
Fit and healthy – just looking to relax: Not a problem here, you might think? Wrong, switching off from your stress-filled working life can also shutdown your immune system leading to a condition known as ‘leisure sickness’ – leaving your body more susceptible to infections. Also, changing your diet, upping alcohol intake and lazing around can cause medical nasties such as increased blood pressure and dehydration. There’s also the risk of so-called ‘holiday heart syndrome’ where abnormal heartbeats can be caused by sudden lifestyle changes associated with holidays.
Travelling with kids: There’s bound to be bumps and scrapes, so make sure you take a look at our must-take holiday first aid kit. Scroll down to find out more.
So, as you can see, we could all benefit from a little use of portable health technology. Have a look at our gadgets and apps, pick what’s best for you and have a great time.
Travel health gadgets and tools
Who needs to worry about health on holiday?
Gone are the days of packing a thermometer and box of plasters, modern-day travellers have a high-tec arsenal of health gadgets on hand to ensure that no one is denied the chance to leave anxiety at home and travel with confidence. Whether you have a pre-existing condition, or simply want to monitor your health while away from home, Here’s the APH guide to essential portable health gadgets available for your travels.
Blood pressure monitor
Docs will tell you it’s the silent killer, so make sure you stay relaxed by keeping track of how your claret’s behaving as you head abroad. Who needs it: Everyone should be aware of what’s going on in their arteries while travelling abroad. Anything from drinking more alcohol and eating extra food to higher or lower than usual temperatures can cause blood pressure to rocket or plunge – leaving you at greater risk of anything from strokes to fainting. Both previously healthy travellers and those with pre-existing conditions should make sure they’re in the know when it comes to blood flow. Omron RS3: This lightweight, compact machine uses a wrist–mounted cuff to measure your blood pressure and is easily packed in your hand luggage* or in the plane’s hold. Simply slip it on your wrist and get an instant reading. The machine will keep track of your previous readings, alerting you to any dangerous changes. For added reassurance, it will also warn you if an irregular heartbeat is detected. How much: £42.48 Where: www.newitts.com More information:Find out more information on high blood pressure Get a free BP test: Get an idea of your BP with a free test first here
Blood clot prevention
Poor lifestyle choices and pre-existing medical conditions can leave your blood sticky and more likely to clot. Travelling abroad can make this even worse as you change your diet, exercise and other relevant factors. This can put you at risk of cardiac events, strokes and of course deep vein thrombosis on the plane. However, a simple–to–use machine can help ensure you keep your red stuff healthy and free flowing. Here’s the information you’ll need. Who needs it: The CoaguChek machine uses a small painless pinprick of blood to measure the person’s INR level. Put simply, this is how long the blood takes to clot. The lower the number, the ‘thicker’ the blood is, meaning a clot is more likely. Alternatively, a higher than expected reading can result in bleeding. Only those with a history of DVT or other pre-existing vascular and cardiac conditions will need one of these machines, but anyone using blood-thinning drugs such as Warfarin will benefit from knowing their INR level – giving them the opportunity to contact qualified medical personnel to update their dosage. Heading abroad often results in changes of diet, the amount of alcohol consumed and how much exercise is undertaken – all of which can increase the risk of blood becoming too thick or thin. A great machine to give independence and confidence to travellers using anticoagulant drugs to thin their blood. CoaguChek XS: This incredibly portable device requires you to prick your finger – using the included lancet – squeeze a tiny amount of blood onto a test strip and a few seconds later you’ll get the result. Don’t worry about accuracy – this is the machine that many doctors and nurses use throughout the world. You can then call your doctor in the UK to see if you need to update the dosage of your blood-thinning treatment. How much: £358.80 Where:www.coaguchek.comMore information: Find out more information about self-monitoring your INR level
Portable hand-held ECG machine
Portable ECG device
Have you got a pre-existing heart condition? You’ll know that docs will always want to take a reading of how you ticker’s working (an ECG) – and this handheld machine lets you do just that while on holiday. Take a 30-second ECG, after which the data can be captured and given to a local doctor or mailed back to your consultant in the UK. This should only be used for routine checks. In the event of an emergency call an ambulance and go straight to the nearest hospital. Data should only be read and acted upon by trained professionals. Who needs one: If you have previously had a heart attack, or been diagnosed with a cardiac-related issue, travelling abroad can seem a daunting prospect, but providing your doctor has cleared you for travel, the reassurance of a machine such as this can greatly reduce the anxiety experienced. Taking regular scans, which can be recorded, can also provide useful information for your consultant to review and help improve your treatment or spot potential problems when you return. Omron HeartScan: This truly portable device performs a 30-second recording and provides information on heart rate, rhythm and the ECG waveform. It’s cordless, too, so no need to hook up to multiple cables like the one at your local hospital. Use the SD card to download up to 300, date and time-stamped recordings. Includes internal analysis software (13 analysis codes) to show the results directly to the user. How much: From £298.80 to £598.80 with software. Where: www.wms.co.uk More information: Find out more about ECG readings
If you’re looking for peace of mind while travelling, a portable defibrillator makes the ultimate lifesaving and confidence-boosting travel buddy to slip in your luggage. Who needs it: While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest, even ultra –healthy sportsmen and women can have undiagnosed heart problems. Additionally, anyone who has a pre-existing cardiac condition will find travelling with such a machine brings a new feeling of liberation and reassurance that empowers them to once again enjoy foreign travel. HeartSine PDU 400 Personal Defibrillation Unit: With a battery pack that lasts five years, this single-use portable defibrillator will always be ready for action in the unlikely event it’s called into action. Despite the vital job it performs, the machine’s operation has been designed for the lay user without any medical experience – giving both visual and audio prompts to help provide a step–by–step guide through the entire rescue process. It comes complete with electrodes and battery with five-year shelf life. How much: £718.80 Where: www.numed.co.uk More information: The Resuscitation Council at http://www.resus.org.uk
Fingertip oxygen blood saturation
Blood oxygen monitor
If you have a pre-existing health problem, or if you’re heading off on an activity holiday – such as skiing or cycling – keeping abreast of your body’s ability to deliver fresh, oxygen –rich blood to your vital bits is essential information. Failure to do this could lead to hypoxia, which can result in serious health issues or cause you to make poor decisions – not great while taking part in activities such as skiing or cycling. Getting your hands on one of these cheap, easy-to-use devices will keep all the information you need right at your fingertips. Who needs it: Anyone who’s interested in how their body is performing. If you’re on an activity-related holiday, you can map your body’s performance in new surroundings, while anyone with respiratory issues – such as bronchitis, asthma and emphysema – will be able to monitor how their system is reacting to the differing conditions such as warmer (or cooler) temperatures and increased pollution in some areas. It’s also a useful tool for expectant mothers. A great piece of kit to help keep in touch with your body – and reduce any anxiety you might otherwise experience when travelling. Speak to your doctor before you go to get information on what your blood/oxygen saturation range should be. Lifemax Fingertip Pulse Oximeter: This monitor will fit both adults and children of all ages. It will display the blood oxygen level with a clear digital display and in bar chart format. It’s simple to use, too, with a single-button operation. It’s small and lightweight; making it easy to fit in a pocket or small bag. Simply clip it on your finger, push the button and you’re done. A perfect gadget for your holiday baggage. How much: £42.99 Where: www.stressnomore.co.uk More information:www.patient.co.uk
Cessation of breathing alarm
Cessation Of Breathing Alarm
This Apnoea Monitor – Cessation Of Breathing Alarm is designed to monitor the breathing movements of a sleeping child up to 3 years old. It does also work for older people but was specifically designed for young children. It will sound an alert if breathing is irregular. Who needs it: Anyone who is travelling with a child or elderly person with pre-existing health issues. Apnoea Monitor: Parents are designed to worry – it’s perfectly normal. This mat is a great way to ease the anxiety that many will feel when travelling with kids. How much: £114.19 Where:www.completecareshop.co.uk
Home cholesterol test
Cholesterol check machine
Imagine the M25 Dartford Tunnel section on a Friday rush hour. This snarling clogged artery could be an accurate reflection of your very own arterial system. A cholesterol-clogged body should be treated as soon as possible, so taking a test before you head on a chip–fuelled holiday might be a wise move. Additionally, superfit sporty types can also have high cholesterol because many people inherit their high levels, so don’t think that heading for the salad bar renders you immune from its threat. Who needs it: Anyone who’s 40 or over should have a test. Additionally, if you’re a parent who’s previously been diagnosed with high cholesterol, you should have your kids checked before they reach 10. We all like to let our hair down on holiday, so make sure you’re not risking a cholesterol-related snarl-up as you enjoy your well-earned break. Lifemax Cholesterol Monitoring Kit: Just like a good cop, bad cop routine, cholesterol is made up of the bad low density lipoproteins (LDL) and the good high density lipoproteins (HDL). A simple finger-prick test on a strip inserted into this machine will reveal your overall rating for both types of cholesterol. If you find you have raised LDL (bad) levels, arrange a fasting test with your doctor. How much: £66.19 Where: Lifemaxuk.co.uk Find out the facts on cholesterol: http://heartuk.org.uk/
Blood sugar testing
Blood glucose tester
If you suffer from diabetes, you’ll know the importance of keeping on top of your blood sugar level. Fortunately, highly portable test machines ensure sufferers aren’t left locked to their doc for regular blood tests. Diabetes UK says travel is fine for both Type 1 and 2 sufferers, but warns: ‘If you need to make any changes to your regime be mindful that a hot or cold climate may affect how your insulin and blood glucose monitor work’. Who needs it: Anyone planning to travel abroad and suffers from diabetes. Abbott Diabetes Care Freestyle Lite: This is a stylish and discreet blood glucose meter that’s easy to use and doesn’t require and coding. The micrometer is so compact it fits in the palm of your hand with room to spare – but has a large, easy-to-read screen. The perfect companion for those travelling abroad with limited baggage space. How much: £24.97 Where:www.fishpond.co.uk More information: Find out more about travel and diabetes
Portable induction loop
Portable induction loop
Anyone with hearing difficulties will appreciate this portable induction loop that will help them join in with other members of their group or people they meet on holiday.
Who needs it: Anyone who uses a hearing aid. The portable induction loop is easy to carry and can be easily set up in seconds. Designed specifically for one-to-one and small group applications with localised coverage of approx 1.2m/2 – making it ideal for trips to restaurants and other holiday-related situations. Ensure that hearing difficulties don’t mean you have to miss out on the fun. PL1/K1 Portable Induction Loop Kit: Ready to use in seconds and fully compliant with the Disability Act, it’s ideal for counter, table or desk top use. The fully rechargeable system offers excellent audio performance with single-button operation. There’s also an additional microphone socket to cater for larger groups. How much: £99.00 Where:www.hearingloop.co.uk
Unborn baby heart monitor
Listen to your unborn child’s heart with this portable device
Mums-to-be (and dads) need a holiday ahead of the sleepless nights that are sure to follow, but travelling abroad can cause anxiety and stress over the baby’s wellbeing. This is a totally natural reaction, but – provided you’ve been cleared to travel by your doctor or midwife – completely unnecessary. Help ease the anxiety and lower stress levels with this foetal heartbeat monitor. Put your mind at rest by listening to the magical sound of your baby’s heartbeat. Who’s it for: Expectant mums and doting dads who want to enjoy some much-needed calm ahead of the tiny whirlwind that’s about to change their lives forever. Lowering stress levels is one of the best ways to ensure that baby remains happy – so this could be just the machine. Jumper JPD –100B LCD Foetal Baby Doppler Heartbeat Monitor: Completely harmless to baby, the sound of its heart can usually be heard from the 9th to 12th week of pregnancy. Simply press the probe against the abdomen, turn up the speaker and listen to the baby’s heart beating. There’s also a headphone jack, so you can record the heartbeat to your smartphone and send it home as an extra special postcard from your hols. How much: £44.99 Where:www.clinicalguard.com More information: Find out more about travelling while pregnant
It might not sound that high-tec, but the humble thermometer makes a formidable frontline of defence as we battle to stay healthy at home and abroad. Temperature can tell us a lot about our body’s state of wellbeing – so make sure you don’t leave Blighty without one. From spotting and dealing with a slight sniffle to detecting a potentially fatal rise or fall in body temperature, this piece of kit can do it all. Who needs it: Anyone travelling abroad would be foolish to leave an electronic thermometer off their packing list. This small, cheap and easy-to-pack device will help ensure you’re ready and prepared. From kids to adults – it’s the early-warning system that can save many a lost day’s holidaying. Braun Thermoscan IRT 4520: This easy-to-use ear thermometer is great for adults and kids, alike. One-handed operation and accurate results make this unit one of the best on the market. How much: £31.00 Where:www.multipharmacy.com More information: Find out more about body temperature
If you’re prone to serious asthma attacks, you’ll know the importance of having a nebulizer close at hand. While suffering from asthma should not prevent you travelling abroad, you should mitigate against issues such as hot climates, higher levels of pollution and a more relaxed attitude to smoking in public places. Taking a small travel nebulizer is a great start. However, you should always consult your doctor about the suitability of this product for you. Who needs one: Anyone travelling abroad who suffers from asthma. It could be especially useful for those travelling to countries beyond Europe, or on an activity holiday. Omron MicroAIR NE–U22–E: This is a truly portable nebulizer that will make a welcome companion on your hols and easily fits into your hand luggage. It works for approx eight days (30 minutes a day) on two AA batteries, so you’ll not be constantly recharging it. One-touch operation makes it even simpler to get going and deliver your medication. How much: £131.19 Where:www.omronwebshop.co.uk More information: Travelling with asthma
The ultimate first aid kit
Whether you’re flinging yourself down a near-vertical black run or spending seven days sipping cocktails on a sun lounger in Spain, the chances are you’ll need the services of a first aid kit at some time during your hols. However, the old-school red case with a few plasters and half-used tube of Savlon needs some serious updating, here’s our ultimate holiday first aid kit that you need to be packing…
Health apps to take on holiday
Health apps for your hols
Looking to pack yourself a digital first aid? Keep a digital eye on your holiday wellbeing with our list of the best health –related apps to download onto your smartphone
Skinvision: Analyse moles and freckles on your skin
Keep an eye on that mole as you head to the sun
Skinvision: Analyse moles and freckles on your skin What’s it for: Keeping track of moles and freckles
The Skinvision app analyses photos of moles or freckles to create a ‘risk rating’, which the app’s manufacturers claim to be 83% accurate. It can also store the photos to create an ongoing record to help monitor changes in size or shape. The app will also provide a recommendation on whether further medical investigation is required. The photo can also be sent directly to your doctor. The app is not intended to replace professional medical advice and any mole that changes shape or size should be reported to your doctor asap. How much: Free Download here: Available for Android and iOs here
iTriage: Step-by-step symptom-checker and more
What’s that symptom?
iTriage What does it do: Helps analyse your symptoms
If you or your family have developed a medical problem while on holiday, this app could help diagnose what the issue is and what you need to do next. Use the step-by-step symptom checker to reveal possible problems, browse conditions, find nearby medical professionals such as doctors, dentists and pharmacists. It’s a multi-function app that’s certainly worth packing on your smartphone. How much: £Free Download it here: iTriage is available for Android and iOs devices Android iOs
EyeXam: Check your sight for driving at home and abroad
Don’t risk your licence or safety
EyeXam: Check your sight for driving at home and abroad What’s it for: Testing your eyesight
Driving with impaired vision can risk losing your licence and serious injury, so make sure you’re up to the job of driving – both here and abroad – with this free eye test app. Simply take a series of vision tests to check sight and eye health. Research shows sight can deteriorate by up to 40% before becoming noticeable, meaning this app could be a vital early-warning system. Does not replace professional advice. How much: Free Where: Download the app here
Get it for Android
Get it for iOs
Calm: Meditation on the move
We all know that travelling can be stressful, which is where packing this app in your digital travel kit could come to the rescue. From making an escape from a busy airport to nervous flyers, Calm can help you meditate, sleep, relax and much more. Choose from seven guided meditation sessions lasting from two to 30 minutes. How much: £Free (additional meditation session by in –app purchase) Get it for iPhone Get it for Android
Instant Heart Rate: Check your beats per minute
Keep track of how your heart’s behaving with this instant heart rate monitor. The app uses your iPhone’s camera to measure the pulse from your fingertip – letting you spot any unusually fast or slow cardiac episodes. Great for those who are exercising while abroad, because it lets you label your condition – such as resting, post –exercise etc – when you take your measurement. Registered users can also export data and send it home to a medical expert if required. How much: £Free (in –app purchases available) Get it for iPhone Get it for Android
Pill Monitor: Don’t miss a dose
Pill Monitor is an app designed to manage any of your pills/medications. Great for when you’re away and your usual routines are broken. The app will remind you when it’s time to take your tablets and let you mark them off as taken – reducing the risk of doubling up. Must-have app for travellers who needs to take medication. How much: £Free Get it for Android Get it for iOS
Red Button: Emergency services worldwide
If you should have a medical crisis in an unfamiliar foreign country, it’s essential that local emergency services can be located – and be able to locate you. This app will help call local services with an SOS and then use GPS positioning to let them find where you are. You can also notify friends through social networks that you need assistance. How much: £Free Get it for iPhone
Glucose Buddy: Helps diabetes sufferers log their glucose figures
A great app to help diabetic patients to store glucose numbers, insulin dosage, monitor carbohydrate consumption and activities to manage weight and blood pressure. How much: £Free Get it for iPhone Get it for Android
Withings Smart Blood Pressure Monitor: Your phone checks you BP
A great app and accessory to easily deliver instant blood pressure readings while you’re abroad. Simply plug the cuff into your iPhone and take a blood pressure reading. The reading can then be shared via email with your doctor back in the UK. Results can also be logged and put into a graph for long-term review. How much: £69.00 Get it here:Buy the monitor and app here
PoopMD: Parents - analyse your baby's poop
Travelling abroad is an anxious time for new parents who are worried about taking newborn babies away from familiar medical professionals. However, the colour and consistency of its poop can be a vital window to the tot’s health. A baby’s motions come in many colours – some of which may seem alarming, but are totally normal. However, some colours can be a sign of problems. This app will let you photograph the poop, before analysing it for you. A great app to help educate parents and help ease anxiety. How much: £Free Get it for iPhone
BHF PocketCPR app: Learn to save lives
The free app explains how to carry out hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on someone in cardiac arrest using hard and fast chest compressions. The app also helps you practice by using the accelerometer hardware built into most smartphones. It means your mobile can measure the rate and depth of practice compressions, telling if you need to do the compressions faster or slower; or whether you should push harder or softer. Be prepared and you could be a holiday lifesaver. How much: Free Get it for iPhoneGet it for Android
My Last Cigarette: Help to stay off the cancer sticks
Holidays are a prime time to relapse for those trying to quit the smoking habit, which is why this app could provide the help you need to remain strong. It’ll give you second-by-second updates on how much your lifespan is likely to increase each time you don’t reach for a ciggie. It’ll also provide updates on improvements to your vascular system and lung function. You’ll also be served your current nicotine and carbon monoxide levels – and how many smoking-related deaths have occurred since you quit. How much: £0.69p Get it for iPhone Get it for Android (alternative app)
AliveCor ECG heart monitor: Portable ECGs to share with docs
This device will let your iPhone take an electrocardiogram (ECG) which records the rhythm and electrical activity of your heart. Simply clip the monitor to your iPhone, place your fingers on the sensors and let the app reveal what your heart’s up to. The ECG can then be shared by email with your doctor back in the UK. The ultimate in health–related app technology. How much: £120.00 for sensor case to slip onto your phone. Get it for iPhone Get it for Android
Fatbooth: Holiday motivation
If you need the a little help to keep control of your holiday excesses, then why not download this fun app to see just how you might look if you go too far. Take a snap of yourself and let the app add several pounds to your face – and reveal how your next passport photo might look. Prevention is better than cure… How much: £0.00 free for iPhone Get it for iPhone Get it for Android
Real life: How a heart attack almost left me imprisoned me in the UK
Heart attack victim ‘Rob’ is no longer chained to the UK thanks to medical gadgets
We speak to Rob, 45, from Sussex who had a heart attack at just 36 years old – leaving him tied to his doctor’s surgery and too terrified to travel beyond the UK’s borders condemning him and his family to a lifetime of rainy staycations – until he discovered technology could save the day….
Rob’s story… “Sitting on my sofa at home one evening as I tucked into my smoked haddock and EastEnders, I was hit by a devastating heart attack without any warning. Two complete blockages in my left anterior descending artery – also known as the ‘widow maker’ – left me with an aneurysm (a dead, bulging piece of scar tissue) on the left side of my heart requiring life-long blood-thinning medication.
As a result, I need to take regular blood tests to ensure the dosage of the blood-thinning drug, Warfarin wasn’t leaving my claret too thin – causing the possibility of internal bleeding – or too thick – risking strokes. These blood tests had effectively left me tied to the UK.
You can imagine how that went down with my family – especially as it all coincided with one of the wettest ‘summers’ the UK had experienced for decades. However, a casual chat with a fellow heart patient in the doctor’s waiting room alerted me to the CoaguChek machine – a portable and easy-to-operate blood testing gadget that would let me self-test from anywhere in the world.
It wasn’t cheap, but at around £300.00 it was a small price to pay for freedom. Since buying it, I’ve swapped rain-soaked Cornwall for America, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to name just a few of my post –heart attack conquests.
If my blood gets too thin or thick while away, I simply call my local surgery in the UK where they input the test result into a computer and read out the new dosage over the phone – simple.
Alongside the practicalities of not being tied to blood tests in the UK, travelling with the machine has helped me cope with the terrible anxiety that I suffered after the heart attack. It really has made the world my oyster once again… sorry Cornwall.’
Names have been changed to protect privacy.
Before you travel
See a doctor before you travel if considering a medical device
If you suffer from any pre-existing medical condition you should always consult a doctor before travelling. Speak to the medical professional about the suitability of machines, tools and apps we’ve included in this feature. Always ensure you have full medical insurance and have told the provider about any medical conditions you suffer from.
You should also ask your airline if you’ll need a letter from the doctor to bring the health gadgets we’ve listed here onto the aircraft. If so, your doctor will be happy to provide this, but may charge from £10 –20 for doing so.
*New security rules for electronic devices: As with laptops, tablets, phones and other electronic devices, it’s likely you’ll need to prove that your health gadget is able to be switched on to ensure it complies with new security rules.