Did you know 40% of people still choose to travel when sick? And on the plane, we’re 80% more likely to catch the germs of a sick passenger within 11 seats of us. Not fun stats.
It’s also not fun being under the weather while traveling or when you’re just busy on the go. So with a few months still to go in peak flu season, we spoke to Dr. Grace Greist MD FACP, an Internal Medicine Faculty member at Ascension St. Vincent’s Primary Care Center in Indianapolis. “We’re in the middle of high influenza activity right now and seeing it all across the country, which puts travelers at a higher risk” said Dr. Greist. “It’s definitely not too late to get a flu shot, which I highly recommend getting every year because the flu virus evolves quickly, and you want to latest vaccine to fight what viruses are expected for the season.”
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website notes peak flu activity is between December and February and can last as late as May.
Dr. Greist offered these six tips for travelers:
- When to get your flu shot: Aim for at least two weeks before travel. Peak effectiveness is about six weeks after vaccination; but getting it at any point could still be beneficial. Even if traveling to another country where the influenza may be different, it can offer cross-protection.
- How to steer clear of germs: Avoid close contact with people who are sick, wash your hands frequently, avoid frequently touching your face and mouth, and disinfect shared surfaces. Wearing a mask may help, but most don’t effectively block all the small viruses in the air.
- What to do if you catch the bad kind of travel bug: Rest, drink plenty of fluids and take over the counter meds as needed. Try to avoid close contact with other people and public spaces; be especially careful around very young children, the elderly or people who do not have strong immune systems. Seek medical care if you run high fevers, have difficulty breathing or you have such severe vomiting and diarrhea that you get dehydrated.
- When to consult with your doctor: If you have underlying medical problems or are at high risk for flu complications, talk to your doctor before you travel about whether you should bring anti-flu medications. And of course, if traveling out of the country, get medical guidance on other vaccinations you should have.
- What to pack: When traveling bring plenty of hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes. Consider bringing common over the counter medications with you.
- What to skip: Lastly, avoid taking antibiotics for simple colds. This is not effective and can lead to antibiotic resistance.
To help travelers gear up against the almost 40% of us who will still travel when sick and other winter forces, Sustainable Travel & Living founder and frequent traveler, Lauren Smith, recommends her favorite eco-conscious gear for winter protection:
- Guard yourself against germs with our travel-size 100% certified organic hand sanitizer, great for hands and wiping down tray tables and armrests with these Unpaper towels, and wallet-sized plant-based paper soap sheets.
- Keep your face happy with our favorite, plastic-free pair, the eucalyptus & peppermint sniffle stick in cardboard tube and vegan, unscented lip balm.
- Cozy up with this fleece air filtration Bioscarf, a better-looking alternative to masks that has been tested to effectively filter airborne particles and also supports giving scarves to people at risk of illness from air pollution around the world.
- Pack your own super-soft organic bamboo travel sheet that’s breathable, moisture-wicking and antimicrobial, plus Oeko-Tex® certified for sustainable manufacturing.
- Fight flu and single-use plastics with a high-quality, reusable stainless steel water bottle with everyday purifier plus easy, drop-and-rinse bottle cleaning tablets.
- Try to fight jetlag by getting on your flight rested and using these No-Jet-Lag supplements. Outside the store, if you feel sickness coming on, Lauren swears by Wellness Formula® vitamins and in the unfortunate situation of flu or stomach issues, Ceralyte Hydration Powder.
“For flights, I’ve learned to take more vitamins like C and B12 and drink less alcohol; try and control stress and jet lag; avoid or wipe down high-touch areas like the seatbelt lavatories, call buttons, tray tables, seat back pockets and magazines; and finally to use the overhead air vent, which I’ve read can actually filter out airborne bacteria and help keep fresher air around you.” says Lauren.