5 Ways to Avoid Getting Sick When Traveling

3.19.13-Airplane-FlyingWhile illness can strike at any time of year, holiday travel makes most of us more susceptible to sickness. We’re stressed, we’re cold, and we’re spending time in cramped trains, planes and cars with lots of other people. It often may seem impossible to avoid getting sick when traveling.

“During the holidays, upper respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold and the flu, are very common,” says Susan Rehm, M.D., Medical Director of the National Foundation for Infectious Disease. “Gastrointestinal infections that cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea also spread during the holiday season.”

So what can you do to prevent bringing home more than presents? Dr. Rehm suggests following these tips to avoid getting sick when traveling and ensure that your holidays are happy and healthy:

Stay up to date on routine immunizations

“Staying on top of routine immunizations is one of the best things you can do to prevent getting sick while traveling,” says Dr. Rehm. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to see what you need.

Get the flu shot

Each year approximately 200,000 are hospitalized and 40,000 people die from influenza complications. Getting your annual flu shot will protect you and those around you from the flu. Even if you yourself do not have the symptoms of the flu, you can carry the virus around and expose others to it. Getting your flu shot before holiday travel is especially important, as holiday gatherings often bring the elderly and the very young together, two populations especially vulnerable to dangerous, potentially life-threatening complications from influenza. Many retail clinics like Health Clinics at select Walgreens provide affordable and convenient flu shots. You can book an appointment through iTriage online or on your smartphone.

Know flu symptoms

“Many people don’t realize that the flu is preventable (with a flu shot), or that may be treatable with prescription antiviral medication if caught within the first 48 hours of symptoms,” says Dr. Rehm. If you experience flu symptoms, visit your doctor, an urgent care or a retail clinic.

Flu symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Stiffness 

Avoid sick people if you can

Remember that most infections are spread through infectious droplets in the air (colds and flu) or when you touch a something that has been contaminated with viruses or bacteria by someone who is ill,” says Dr. Rehm. “When someone with a respiratory illness coughs, sneezes or even talks, viruses can spread in the air for six feet around them.  If you are aware that someone around you is ill, politely offer him or her a tissue and hand sanitizer. If it is possible to move away from the sick person, do so.” 


Your hands are the most convenient way for viruses and infections to travel. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer to lower your risk of contracting an infection or virus while traveling, and avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth.

Don’t travel when you’re sick

“If you’re sick, don’t travel, especially if you’re dehydrated or if you have a fever,” says Dr. Rehm. “You don’t want to be the person who gives the ‘gift that keeps on giving:’ a chain of infection that lasts long after the holidays are over.” If your doctor has prescribed you antiviral drugs, make sure to take them.

Treat yourself well

To maximize your ability to avoid getting sick when traveling and ensure that your immune system is ready for the holidays, keep hydrated, eat a healthy diet, make sure you get enough sleep, and keep alcoholic drinks to a minimum.

Though the basic principles can be applied broadly, recommendations for international travelers are country-specific and often more detailed. Please see your health care professional well in advance of your travel. You can also consult the CDC’s travel website for more information.

Courtesy of iTriage


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