How to Cope with a Cold or The Flu When Travelling

Travel enough and inevitably you’ll find yourself at the airport or in a hotel room coming down with a cold or the flu. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, it can be as little as an inconvenience, or at worse, potentially life threatening. Best to be prepared.

Disclaimer: I am no doctor, or health care professional, just a traveller.

#1 Medical Insurance

First thing to consider, even before you leave your front door, what medical coverage do you have? Is your medical coverage up to date? Make sure you take your health plan cards and claim forms or login information with you, and read what your coverage is when you are travelling abroad. Phone them before you go if you want clarity. And if you don’t have coverage, consider getting short-term travel health insurance, not always considered in the cost of a vacation but your travel agent should be able to assist.

The Woe of A Cold Or Flu During Travels Past

Today, I’m not going to work, and I’m staying home with a bad cold. Just glad I’m not in the middle of traveling this holiday week. Over the course of my travels, though, I’ve had my mishaps. Mostly flues and colds at inconvenient travel times. Nothing worse than a well planned 9 days in the French Riviera with a flu. But no matter where, having a cold or flu, is about finding some rest, medications and taking care.

Rest, Medicate and Taking Care

If you’re between flight, or arriving at an airport, just get yourself to your hotel/flight so you can get some rest, go to bed. On the way keep a weary eye open for nearby Pharmacists or Chemists, and ask the receptionist where the closest one is. Make sure you drink plenty warm fluids so you can to flush out the virus. The hotel kettle is perfect for that. Ask for more herbal teas if you use them up. Hydrate!

Keep Hydrated – Whether Ill or Not
While traveling. Don’t wait for boarding and takeoff, and the trolly to finally get to your row to have a drink of water! Always take a bottle of water with you when you board a flight. Drink from it liberally, and stretch your legs to get up and refill it often. Keep it by you during overnight flights, its your new best friend.

An Ounce of Prevention

There seems to be some law, when I take my bag of various elixers, I don’t need them. When I forget them, I need them. Here is whats in my Travel Meds bag: some pill or powdered drink form of Vitamin C for prevention. Emergen-C packets are great; they provide a high dose of Vitamin C, but without the sugary juice. I also include a few packs of Lemsip, a brand of cold and flu remedies sold in most commonwealth countries. Also, I have my favourite headache pills, a few cold night/day capsules, sore muscle relief,  cough drops and band-aids. Get some travel sized packs of sanitizing hand wipes and keep them in your carry on bag. Use them when you settle in your seat, and when you return from bathroom visits.


If it’s Serious and You’re Abroad

Seek medical attention. Contact your local Embassy or Consulate for medical referral advice.

I’ll never forget that non-life threatening motor bike incident on a remote Thai Island, where there was no hospital, only a local clinic, no anesthetic, and some needles and thread. Then the more serious injury requiring a long bus ride to a medical centre with x-ray and anesthesia and prescriptions. Make sure you keep documents. Get a doctors letter if you’re going to miss a flight or hotel booking. Each airline has their own policy, and while it makes perfect sense to me that a contagious illness like a flu would not be desirable on a plane, Airlines don’t always allow ticket changes or refunds.

Be Aware – Some Countries Screen for Flu

National Geographic : SWINE FLU PICTURES: Bracing for a Potential Pandemic

As governments around the world try to take precautions to prevent the spread of H1N1 virus, don’t be surprised if you are screened to check your body temperature. This “passive screening” of travellers at airports is standard practice in some cities, like Beijing, or is escalated at other airports as flu strains are discovered.


John Hopkins: What To Do If You Get Sick While Traveling

CDC Know What To Do if You Become Sick or Injured on Your Trip

CDC Your Survival Guide to Safe and Healthy Travel

*Again, I am not a doctor, or health care professional, this is just traveller to traveller advice. Hoping you have a healthy trip!!

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