According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention flu activity peaks between December and February, but it can last as late as May. AAA is urging travelers to take precautionary measures to protect themselves from getting sick.
Although the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to make headlines, travelers should not overlook the flu. So far this season, the CDC estimates that there have been at least 26 million flu illnesses, 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths from the flu.
“The risk of contracting the flu is high right now whether you are in public spaces near home or traveling,” said Nick Jarmusz, Director of Public Affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Preparation is the most important thing for travelers to ensure an unexpected illness doesn’t ruin their trip.”
AAA and CDC Tips for Travelers
Before you go
- Get vaccinated. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine yearly, preferably in the fall.
- People should get vaccinated at least two weeks before travel, because it takes two weeks for vaccine immunity to develop.
- Monitor activity and get the shots you need for the countries you’re visiting.
- Do not travel if you are sick with flu-like symptoms. These symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, and fatigue. Stay home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have fever symptoms.
- Stay aware of travel advisories and alerts. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov.
- Read more tips for travelers from the CDC.
While you Travel
- Get plenty of rest before your trip.
- Stay hydrated to keep your nasal passages moist, which helps protect you from viruses and bacteria.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching surfaces that are likely to have germs.
- Avoid touching your face. Germs need a point of entry like eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
After Your Trip
- Closely monitor your health for 7 days. If you become ill with flu symptoms, seek medical attention if they are severe.
Other Health Hazards When Traveling
Although illnesses like the flu are top of mind this time of year, AAA is also warning travelers about a potentially deadly condition that can strike year-round; particularly to travelers on long flights or road trips.
People who are immobile for four hours or more may be susceptible to Venous Thromboembolism (VTE). This is a condition where a blood clot forms in a deep vein (usually the leg) and travels to the lungs and blocks blood supply.
Symptoms of VTE
Pain or tenderness (usually in the legs), swelling and unusual warmth in that area, and potentially even some redness or discoloration of the skin where the blood clot is located. Symptoms for a pulmonary embolism include difficulty breathing, fast or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, coughing up blood and lightheadedness.
If you experience any symptoms while on an airplane, let a flight attendant know immediately. You likely will need a medical evaluation on the plane.
Leg exercises, walking around every two to three hours, wearing compression stockings and, for high-risk travelers, taking medication to prevent blood clots.
For more information on staying healthy while overseas, visit AAA.com/AAALiving.