If you have never spent time in California — now is the perfect time to go! In many parts of the U.S., it’s getting colder and colder. In certain cities (think upstate New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc.) the weather can be downright brutal. So a trip to Cali will be a nice break from all that frigid cold.

Traveling During Flu Season

You and your family will find all kinds of fun, great eateries, and beautiful scenery up and down the California coast. During your travels, however, you need to be cautious of germs, illnesses, and other issues — especially during the winter months. Roughly 50% of all instances of the common cold occur during the fall and spring seasons — but the flu thrives in the colder months.

The U.S. flu season is just beginning and can last through May. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), peak flu infections typically hit the U.S. between December and February. Following a surge in flu cases in Australia and at least three flu-related fatalities in the U.S., many physicians are worried that this year’s flu season could be a particularly bad one.

“A death so early in the flu season suggests this year may be worse than usual,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County public health officer.

Although public health officials can’t prove whether or not this year’s flu season will be worse than usual, they are still recommending travelers to get their flu vaccines before the most dangerous months. Vaccines prevent more than 2.5 million unnecessary deaths every year.

It’s important to note, however, that people should get vaccinated at least two weeks before traveling because it takes at least that long for vaccine immunity to develop. In addition to getting you and your family the proper vaccinations, there are a few other things you can do to avoid getting sick during your trip:

Traveling During Flu Season

  • Never travel if you’re already sick — Even if you have to miss the trip of a lifetime, do it. It’s not worth putting yourself, your family, and other travelers at risk by getting on an airplane sick. If you have any flu-like symptoms — including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, and fatigue — you should not travel.
  • Avoid using the bathroom on short flights — If you’re flying across the country, this is obviously impossible — but just make sure you’re thoroughly washing your hands before and after using the bathroom. If you can, however, avoid going into an airplane bathroom because they are filled with germs.
  • Keep your hands clean and don’t touch your face — Washing your hands is paramount during the flu season. The CDC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60% to 95% alcohol content (like Purell). Also, you should avoid touching your face as much as possible. Since about 1 out of every 10 kids will develop eczema, washing your hands and your child’s hands can help prevent skin issues, as well.”Get in the habit of never rubbing your eyes, touching your mouth or nose unless you just washed your hands,” added New York State-based Dr. Frank Contacessa. “This is one of the greatest ways to avoid getting sick.”
  • Stay hydrated — Onboard air humidity is about 15% and we’re used to between 30% and 60% humidity on land. This low level of cabin humidity can dry out the mucous membranes in your nose and airways, subsequently putting you at a higher risk of contracting a virus. Try to drink at least eight ounces of water per hour when in the air.

As long as you are taking your health and your family’s health seriously during your trip, you should be fine. The Urgent Care Association of America’s 2016 Benchmarking Report found that the five most common illnesses diagnosed at urgent care centers in 2015 were acute upper respiratory infection, acute sinusitis, acute pharyngitis, cough, and acute bronchitis. The last severe flu season in the U.S. was in 2018, with an estimated 48.7 million people falling ill and 79,400 deaths.