It’s vacation season, and the surest way to ruin a trip is to catch a nasty bug. One in five people get a respiratory infection while traveling.* Crowded places like airplanes, hotels, and cruise ships are the perfect breeding grounds for infections to spread. Or, sometimes a new location’s allergens or air pollution can lead to sickness.
You can catch a respiratory by inhaling droplets in the air that contain pathogens, or by coming in contact with a contaminated surface and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. This is not specific to vacation—it’s common in workplaces, in supermarkets, on public transportation, and in schools. Acute respiratory infections account for 20 percent of all medical consultations, and over 30 percent of lost days from work.*
If your head feels clogged, and you have a runny nose, sore throat, and are sneezing, you could have an upper respiratory tract infection. Unfortunately, stuffiness, headache, overall weakness, and achiness can last for two weeks. Sinusitis, or inflammation of the sinuses, often brings facial or dental pain.
Lower respiratory tract infections cause coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness, and can become more severe. Influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia, or even tuberculosis may also result from a lower respiratory infection. Cough, fever, and chest pain are not uncommon with this illness. Be on the lookout for high fever and chills, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, a wet or rattily cough, or blood in the mucus. Contact a doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.
If you are at high risk for lung or chest infections from having a weakened immune system or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), experts advise you to take some “emergency” antibiotics on your trip. Pack pain reliever, decongestants and antihistamines for symptom relief, just in case.
But the smartest move is trying to stay healthy to begin with, and prevent these infections from invading your body. Wash your hands often and thoroughly, especially before prepping or eating food. Also teach your children about good hang hygiene, which includes using antibacterial sanitizer if running water isn’t available.
Try to avoid people who are coughing or sneezing; ideally they are coughing and sneezing into a tissue and throwing it away. Disinfect commonly touched surfaces around your home and in your vacation space like door handles, remote controls, cell phones, and bathroom counters. Do not share drinks or utensils with loved ones—it’s tempting to taste, but you’re putting yourself at risk.
Another way to help prevent respiratory infections is by practicing a healthy lifestyle. Eat a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, practice stress relief techniques, and get about eight hours of sleep each night. These strategies will help keep you feeling well when others are down for the count.
Here to help
Also ask your doctor about using a nasal spray to prevent respiratory infections, especially before air travel. U.S. board-certified physicians are here to help keep you healthy or diagnose your illnesses, creating a treatment plan tailored to you. Teladoc provides 24/7 access to medical care through your mobile device or online through secure video.
Check out tips for better, cleaner air