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The flu can take up to two weeks to run its course, disrupt your work and home life, and leave you feeling lousy. And if you get it during a tropical vacation or important business trip, you’ll likely feel even worse. Even though there’s no sure-fire way to prevent getting the flu, there are smart ways to protect yourself the next time you travel during flu season
How to Prepare for a Trip and Travel Smart During Flu Season
1. Get a Flu Shot
Schedule a flu shot at least two weeks before you go away to protect yourself and reduce the chance of spreading the virus to others. The vaccine protects against most common, circulating strains of the flu virus.1
2. Get the COVID-19 vaccine
Once you have been vaccinated against COVID-19, you are less likely to pass COVID-19 onto someone else and travelling is much safer for yourself and others in your party. If your COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses, wait at least two weeks after getting your second vaccine dose to travel, as this will allow time for your body to build up more immunity to the virus.11
3. Research Your Destination
Before you pack your suitcase, research the current flu activity in your destination. Additionally, it’s a good idea to find out if your health insurance plan covers medical care where you’re traveling. Lastly, locate area hospitals and other health care locations in the event of a medical emergency.
4. Check Local Guidelines Around COVID-19
Different places have different rules and regulations in place when it comes to travelling and COVID-19. Some governments require you to wear a mask, get tested, and/or quarantine yourself before and after travelling. Checking the guidelines in place at your destination will help you prepare for your trip and eliminate any unpleasant surprises.11
5. Travel Only If You Feel Well
Consider delaying your plans until 24 hours after a fever and all other symptoms subside (without the use of fever-reducing medication).2 The Mayo Clinic recommends staying home if you think you have COVID-19, or if you were recently in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. If you are unsure, get tested for COVID-19 around one to three days before your trip.11
6. Pack a Travel Health Kit
Leave space in your carry-on for pain or fever medication, soap, tissues, and an alcohol-based sanitizer.2
7. Keep Your Hands Clean
Whenever you have access to a sink—on a plane, in restaurants, at hotels—wash your hands with soap and running water. Aim to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing with water. You can time yourself by humming the tune to “Happy Birthday” twice through.
If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer, especially before meals.6 Try to use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol, and rub your hands together for around 20 seconds until they are dry to get the best results.10
Try to use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol, and rub your hands together for around 20 seconds until they are dry to get the best results.
8. Keep Hands Away from Your Face
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. This is especially important when traveling in high traffic areas.7
9. Stay Hydrated and Get Enough Sleep
While jet- setting, it’s easy to fall short of the recommended eight glasses of water and seven to eight hours of sleep each day. But hydration and adequate rest are important for healthy immune function.7
10. Be Mindful in Crowds
Airports, restaurants, museums, and public transportation are all hot-beds for germs. Rather than avoid crowds completely, be mindful of your surroundings. Use handrails sparingly, wash hands (or use an alcohol-based sanitizer) frequently, and politely relocate if you suspect another traveler is sick.7 The TSA is asking everyone to maintain a social distance of six feet while in the airport to keep everyone safe.10
11. Wear Your Mask
The TSA requires all individuals to wear a face mask in the airport and on the plane.10 Try to avoid touching the outside of your mask if possible and remember to wash your hands before and after touching your mask.12
The TSA requires all individuals to wear a face mask in the airport and on the plane.
12. Listen to Announcements
Pay attention to any news or government announcements regarding flu activity and follow any local movement restrictions.
13. Monitor Your Body
Once you return home, closely monitor your health for seven days. If you experience any flu-like symptoms, get plenty of rest, drink clear fluids, and seek medical attention if necessary.
Remember, the flu shot is the best safeguard for flu-season travel. Keep your hands clean, allow time for some rest, and monitor how you feel. If you have any remaining questions, please contact your healthcare provider. Safe travels!
- Influenza Prevention: Information for Travelers. (2016, July 26). Retrieved July 01, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/travelers/travelersfacts.html
- CDC. (2016, August 25). People at High Risk of Developing Flu -Related Complications. Retrieved August 30, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.html
- CDC. (2016, May 23). Flu Symptoms & Complications. Retrieved July 01, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/complications.html
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Influenza updates. Retrieved July 01, 2016, from http://www.who.int/influenza/surveillance_monitoring/updates/en/
- Kozarsky, P. E., MD. (2009, December 22). Advice for Patients Traveling During Flu Season. Retrieved February 01, 2017, from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/713704
- CDC. (2009). Stop, Wash, and Go To Avoid the Flu During Travel. Retrieved July 1, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/media/subtopic/matte/pdf/123009stop_wash_go.pdf
- CDC Says “Take 3” Actions to Fight the Flu. (2016, August 01). Retrieved August 10, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.html
- Lehmann, B. A., Ruiter, R. A., & Kok, G. (2013). A qualitative study of the coverage of influenza vaccination on Dutch news sites and social media websites. Retrieved July 01, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679872/
- Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Flu Prevention. Retrieved July 1, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/flu/basics/prevention/con-20035101
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) information. Transportation Security Administration. https://www.tsa.gov/coronavirus. Accessed on 6/10/2021.
- COVID-19 (coronavirus) travel advice. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/coronavirus-safe-travel-advice/art-20486965. Accessed on 6/10/2021.
- When and How to Wash Your Hands | Handwashing. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html. Accessed on 6/10/2021.