The demands of work and family don't always allow us to control when or where we have to travel. And with the increasing number of U.S. cases of the 2009 H1N1 flu, busy travelers have another reason to feel stressed.
Being prepared and staying alert can help reduce your risk of infection. Protect yourself with the following instructions:
Monitor your destination's situation before you go and while you're there. Start by visiting frequently updated Web sites from reliable organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( www.cdc.gov ), the World Health Organization ( www.who.int ), and the Pan American Health Organization ( new.paho.org ).
Get vaccinated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved several 2009 H1N1 vaccines, and they are currently offered in some states for certain people. Ask your doctor if the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine is available. If it is, your doctor can tell you if you should receive the vaccine.
Know your health care options. Identify health care providers and hospitals in the area you'll be visiting. And make sure all your routine vaccinations, including seasonal influenza vaccine, are up-to-date before you leave home. Talk to your doctor about whether the preventive use of antiviral drugs may be right for you.
Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often with water and soap or hand gels containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then put the tissue in the trash. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
Be aware of how you feel. If you develop a fever, sore throat, cough, or other symptoms of 2009 H1N1, see a doctor immediately. Avoid contact with other people while ill. If you're ill before traveling, delay your plans. Stay home from school or work if you become ill once you return.
Stay home for the holidays if you're sick. If you or a family member has 2009 H1N1 symptoms, consider spending the holidays at home. You shouldn't travel until 24 hours after all symptoms are gone. Some airports screen people for certain flu symptoms, such as fever, and your travel may be delayed if you show these symptoms. Let relatives know that it's important not to spread 2009 H1N1 to everyone, and consider planning a get-together at a later date when everyone is healthy.
Keep sick holiday visitors from spreading germs. The holidays often bring many family members and friends together under one roof, but flu germs can spread easily this way. If flu symptoms show up while you are visiting relatives or friends, urge the sick person to avoid others and use a private room and bathroom if possible. Have him or her wear a facemask when around other people.
For additional guidance from the CDC, visit: www.cdc.gov/travel .
© 2013 Main Line Health