Everything You Need to Know About Traveling During Flu Season

Flying During Peak Flu Season

It’s an unfortunate but inevitable part of flying in the winter. Coughing wheezing, watery eyed travelers are like zombies-they’re everywhere!  Why is it that somehow it always seems like you’re stuck sitting next to them for what seems like an interminably long flight?

Travel and Flu Stats

A recent online survey by the market research firm ORC International discovered nearly two-thirds of Americans admitted to engaging in daily activities despite experiencing flu like symptoms. If this seems abnormally high, that’s because it is.  According to modern etiquette expert Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post. “We need to reign that in.”

The survey also found 45 percent of travelers had boarded planes destined for vacation spots and 40 percent were getting onto planes for business with full blown flu symptoms.  “Flu spreads easily, and because of the proximity to others, traveling raises the risk,” said Dr. Susan J. Rehm, the medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

How to Limit Spreading and Catching The Flu

  • Get vaccinated at least two weeks before traveling. That’s usually the amount of time it takes for the vaccine become effective. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, visit your doctor for treatment and diagnosis.
  •  If you are seated next to a sick traveler etiquette expert Anna post suggests approaching the situation immediately. “Stay friendly, stay easy,” Post said. “When you turn to them, smile and say, ‘I can see you’re not feeling well. Would you mind covering when you cough? Thanks.’”  
  • Take overtly visual preventative measures that will hopefully give a subtle clue to fellow travelers.  “Keep some tissues and alcohol-based sanitizer with you,” Post said. “It’s also nice to be able to hopefully offer that to your seat mates, that can help prompt them to try to keep the spread of anything to themselves.”
  •  For the traveler who is sick Post reminds you to turn away from other passengers if you are going to cough or sneeze. “The idea of cold shoulder is to minimize your exposure to other people,” Post said. “Even if technically it doesn’t change anything, it shows people you are doing the best you can.”  
  • Travel health experts also recommend downloading the “Fight the Flu” app, which uses your smart phone’s GPS to find pharmacies and urgent care clinics nearby as well as tracking incidences of flu in the area

Just the ‘FACTS’

It’s not at all uncommon to associate flu symptoms with cold symptoms, but Dr. Rehm urges people to know the difference. “Influenza is highly contagious,” said Dr. Rehm. “The flu virus can spread up to six feet away when someone with the flu coughs, sneezes or even talks. And it can live on hard surfaces for up to two hours.”

The acronym FACTS – feveracheschillstiredness and sudden onset-can assist you in identifying the influenza virus. “This is the key sign,” Dr. Rehm said. “Flu strikes fast, unlike a cold, which could take days to come on. If you are experiencing a sudden onset of a fever, aches and chills, you should call your doctor.”

Hands On, Hands Off

The most well-known of flu etiquette during peak season is to incessantly wash your hands and to keep them below shoulder level.  Experts also caution to be mindful of excessively touching your face, which has been known to lead to higher incidences of contagion. “This idea has been around for a long time,” Post said. “It’s still airborne as well, but that can help.” When the flight attendant hands  out drinks, Post says make sure your hands don’t ‘pass’ along the flu by handing a cup to the person seated directly next to you at the window if you aren’t feeling well.

To Shake or Not To Shake

The most well-known of flu etiquette during peak season is to incessantly wash your hands and to keep them below shoulder level.  Experts also caution to be mindful of excessively touching your face, which has been known to lead to higher incidences of contagion. “This idea has been around for a long time,” Post said. “It’s still airborne as well, but that can help.” When the flight attendant hands  out drinks, Post says make sure your hands don’t ‘pass’ along the flu by handing a cup to the person seated directly next to you at the window if you aren’t feeling well.

Stay at Home

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges passengers not to travel if they are sick with flu-like symptoms. Dr. Rehm agrees, but says if you must catch that flight, use common sense situational awareness around others and take the proper precautions.  “If you have flu symptoms, it’s important to act quickly, see a doctor and follow your doctor’s advice,” Dr. Rehm said. “No one wants to be ‘that guy’ who puts others at risk for flu.”

Special thanks: foxnews.com

Images: huffingtonpost.com, itunes.apple.com

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