Why a flu shot is a must when you’re travelling

Why a flu shot is a must when you’re travelling

Travelling this winter? You’ve probably made a list of the things you need to do to prepare for your trip. But does it include getting you flu shot?

No one wants to be ill while they’re travelling. Your risk of catching the flu depends on when and where you’re travelling, how long you’re travelling for, and your type of travel. You can still be at risk even if it’s summer where you’re going. Here’s why (1):

  • Seasonal flu viruses are circulating throughout the world.
  • In the northern hemisphere, seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October or November and can continue until as late as May; it most commonly peaks between December/January and February/March.
  • In the temperate regions of the southern hemisphere, flu activity typically occurs between April and September.
  • In the tropics, flu viruses circulate throughout the year.

Follow our tips for the best way to protect yourself from the flu while you’re away from home.

Before you travel

The flu vaccine used across Europe and other parts of the northern hemisphere usually protects against the main viruses circulating in other parts of the world (2). So, if you’ve not yet had yours for the current flu season, add it to your list of things to do.

There are certain situations where you should get a flu shot to protect yourself during your trip (1)(2):

  • If you’re travelling to parts of the world where flu viruses are active; this is particularly important for people at high risk of flu-related complications.
  • If your travel companions include tourists from other regions of the world; flu outbreaks could occur any time of year if you’re exposed to strains circulating elsewhere abroad.
  • If you’re going to places where you’ll come in close contact with other travellers: on an aeroplane, train or cruise ship, for instance, or if you’re attending a mass gathering. The flu can spread quickly and easily in crowded conditions.

When you’re planning how best to keep yourself well while you’re away, also consider (2)(3):

  • It takes two weeks for vaccine immunity to develop so make sure you get vaccinated at least two weeks before travel to maximise protection.
  • If you’re high risk for complications from the flu, also discuss antivirals and other flu treatments with your health care provider before your travel.
  • If you are sick with symptoms of influenza-like illness, you should not travel.

While you’re away

There are some extra precautions you can take to help you stay happy and healthy during your trip (2)(3):

  • Practice healthy hygiene habits, including washing your hands frequently with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based sanitiser.
  • Monitor the local health situation, follow local guidelines and pay attention to any local government announcements at your travel destination.
  • Follow any movement restrictions or prevention recommendations.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.

Signs and symptoms of influenza include acute onset of some or all of these signs and symptoms: a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle or body aches and fatigue (4). If you get sick with a flu-like illness (2)(3)(4)(5):

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the used tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and running water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
  • Seek medical assistance – report your illness to any medical centre, for instance – promptly to make sure you receive appropriate medical treatment.
  • Stay in your quarters if you’re asked to; if you’re on a cruise, for instance.

When you return home

We hope you have a healthy and enjoyable trip. If you did come down with the flu while you were away, stay home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have signs of a fever without the use of a fever-reducing medicine (4).

Lastly, if you were travelling during the summer months, you may have received the previous season’s vaccine before you travelled. You should still get the new flu vaccine when it becomes available in the autumn – it will protect you against the flu viruses expected to be in circulation over the upcoming flu season (2).


References
(1) https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/factsheet/51/seasonal-influenza
(2) https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/influenza-seasonal-zoonotic-and-pandemic
(3) https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/conveyance-transportation-issues/cruise-ship-travel
(4) https://www.cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise/management/guidance-cruise-ships-influenza-updated.html
(5) https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/ese.14.21.19219-en

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