Airport travelers crowded

Avoid the Flu During Holiday Travel

If you’ve ever traveled during the holidays, you know how stressful it is.

Last year an estimated 107.3 million travelers hit the road between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1, and there’s no reason to think this year will be different. And crowds like that mean you’ve got a really good chance of getting the flu or other viral illnesses unless you take some simple but essential precautions.

“The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from the flu,” says Tedra Smith, DNP, CRNP, nurse practitioner and an instructor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing. “It is also the best way to prevent the spread of the flu.” (Don’t fall for fake flu products, either; see our story “Beware of Fraudulent Flu Products”).

washing hands with soap at the sink

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people age six months and older receive an annual flu vaccination. You could still contract the flu with the shot, but the vaccine helps reduce the severity of the illness.

Here are some other steps you can take for safe travels.

Prepare a travel health kit. Include tissues, pain or fever medicine, soap, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze. “When you cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze, the germs will then spread onto everything else you touch with your hands,” Smith says. “Instead, use your elbow or a tissue. This will greatly reduce the number of germs spread to people and objects around you.”

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and fight viruses.

Wash your hands and use hand sanitizer.  Don’t leave the house without these products. Buy them on the road if you have to.  Use hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap after touching your face or public shared spaces such as door handles. Some of the germiest places on airplanes are right where you sit. Use disinfecting wipes to clean armrests, tray tables and seatbelts when you board your flight.

Drink plenty of water. Stay hydrated to help your body fight viruses. Water helps keep your temperature normal and gets rid of waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements.

For more information, click here to visit the CDC’s flu page, which has a tool to help you find the vaccine provider nearest you.

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