Doc Holiday's Hygiene Tips For Healthy Travel - My Family Travels

After the Spring 2009 flu outbreak made travelers across the globe afraid to fly, FTF's resident doctor saw a need to share simple health tips to ease parents' worries.After the Spring 2009 flu outbreak made travelers across the globe afraid to fly, FTF's resident doctor saw a need to share simple health tips to ease parents' worries.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, while the so-called Swine Flu is no longer an imminent epidemic, the novel H1N1 virus is still out there and causing thousands of minor, non-life threatening cases of the flu. Although a full-blown outbreak is unlikely to occur this summer, another surge of the virus may surface in the Fall of 2009.  Unfortunately, according to medical experts at the New York City Department of Health, it is impossible to officially prevent the transmission of this flu, or any other.

However, because it's spread easily from person-to-person by coughing, sneezing or viral contact, there are ways to limit your family's chances of contracting novel H1N1 and other influenzas. Keep in mind that like seasonal flu, certain people may be at higher risk of severe illness including persons with certain chronic medical conditions, persons aged 65 or older, children younger than 5-years-old, and pregnant women.

Whether at home or on your next journey across the state or globe, there is much traveling families can learn about hygiene and other preventive health tips that will come in handy for future vacations.

Preventive Measures

Common symptoms of novel H1N1 flu include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, diarrhea, and vomiting. Watch  kids for signs of flu and pay particular attention if breathing becomes difficult, as this may indicate a serious reaction to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (800/CDC-INFO or 800/232-4636; TTY 888/232-6348) offer many wellness suggestions; they're open 24/7 and can be reached through email at [email protected].

The CDC recommends antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) and zanamivir (brand name Relenza) for flu prevention only for those groups most at risk of serious reactions; read more at the CDC's comprehensive flu website.

Travel Well, Travel Clean

To prevent infection during any future outbreak, Passport Health (888/499-PASS) suggests that travelers should always take basic preventive measures while traveling. These hygiene tips are seconded by physicians who say they are just as valuable for those who stay at home. 

  • Regularly clean disinfect your bathroom and kitchen. Also stock these rooms with soap and paper towels.
  • Keep your home well ventilated to ensure that fresh air is circulating.
  • Wipe surfaces such as doorknobs, handrails and phones with chlorine-based products.
  • Avoid large crowds and leave crowds if you observe someone who demonstrates symptoms.
  • If you are symptomatic (cold, fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, lethargy, headache, chills and fatigue), stay at home away from large crowds and your workplace.
  • Wear a surgical mask if you find yourself in an area where and outbreak has been detected or when traveling on airplanes.
  • If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or cough into your arm; avoid contact with your hands. Wash with soap and hot water or alcohol sanitizers to avoid transmission of the virus.

The single most important preventative, according to the medical community, is to wash your hands (and especially your kids' hands). Make sure that you are washing properly, with soap and warm water.

Additionally, a quick wash does not always do the trick. Sing "Happy Birthday" while washing your hands to know that you have cleaned them under running water for the required 20 seconds.

In Case of Illness

Should your child — or even you — contract a strand of any flu, make sure you remain out of public places, such as school or work for at least 24 hour after the symptoms have gone away.  Most children with a healthy immune system can recover very quickly from influenza without treatment.

However, if there are any underlying health problems, call a doctor about receiving the aforementioned antiviral medications. Special Note: If the infected individual is having difficulty or fast breathing, seek medical attention immediately.

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