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TRAVELING THIS HOLIDAY SEASON? HELP KEEP YOUR FAMILY FLU-FREE
Taking precautions before and during your trip can keep the flu from ruining your family vacation.
Nov 22 2019
Holiday travel shows no signs of slowing down. According to the American Automobile Association, last December a record-breaking 112 million Americans took to the roads, rails and runways.
If you and your family are among those planning a getaway this year, keep in mind that holiday season is also flu season. Coming down with the flu and its potentially serious complications won’t just put a damper on your vacation, it can be especially nerve-racking when you’re away from your doctor or your child’s pediatrician. We put together some helpful tips to keep you and your family flu-free before and during travel…and to speed recovery in the chance you do get sick.
Before You Go
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, what are you waiting for? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends one for everyone over six months of age. There are still a lot of misconceptions about the flu shot, primarily that it’s ineffective. While it’s true that efficacy rates vary each year depending on which strains of the virus are circulating, the CDC still recommends the vaccine as your best protection. The shot is available from your doctor, your child’s pediatrician, and at pharmacy clinics and urgent care centers everywhere. Make sure your family is immunized about two weeks before you hit the road – that’s how long it takes for the vaccine to provide protection.
The CDC also suggests packing a small travel kit with tissues, over-the-counter pain or fever medicine, soap, and an alcohol-based sanitizer to use in case soap and water are not available. Another smart idea: include facemasks to wear in case you find yourself near someone who’s ill. You can find these online and in pharmacies. And don’t forget your regular prescription medications, allergy or anti-diarrheal meds.
Travel only when you feel well. Whether you have the flu or a stomach bug, it’s worth putting off your trip for a couple of days so you can recover and avoid spreading your illness to someone else. Ideally, you should stay home until you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
While You’re Away
Needless to say, riding on planes, trains and buses can put you and your family at a higher risk for catching the flu given the huge numbers of people crammed into small spaces. The flu virus is especially hardy and can live for hours on seats, armrests and doorknobs.[iv] Since viruses commonly enter the body from the hands to the eyes or mouth, frequent hand washing is one of the most important steps you and your family can take to prevent infection. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer or wipes to clean your and your child’s hands before eating or preparing food, inserting contact lenses or touching items that are likely to be contaminated such as ticket counters, computerized check-in kiosks, and bins at security checkpoints.
If you’re on a plane or train and someone nearby is persistently coughing or sneezing, ask to be reseated. If that’s not possible, use the facemasks from your handy travel health kit; on most flights, these are also available from the flight attendant. Wear facemasks with the colored side facing outward and the stiff edge on top. Pinch the edge to fit the shape of your nose.
What do you do if, despite these precautions, your child still develops flu symptoms like fever, chills, cough, muscle or body aches, vomiting and diarrhea? We put that question to Norman Moore, Ph.D., Director of Scientific Affairs, Infectious Disease at Abbott. He suggests taking the following four steps right away:
If you get sick while out of the country, things can get a little more complicated. The CDC has some helpful recommendations if you’re planning a trip overseas:
In the holiday rush and the excitement of planning your trip, don’t forget to take some simple precautions that can help ensure a healthy holiday season for you and your family. Safe travels to you and your family this holiday season!
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