Ah, cold and flu season. It’s an unavoidable time of year that, no matter what we do, we must run the gauntlet and see how best we can come out of it.

If you’re travelling, you may well be wondering how and what you can do to put yourself in the most prepared situation to handle this pesky part of the year.

Here are some top tips for you to have a go at:

Be a cold and flu prepper

The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that a seemingly healthy adult has the potential to be contagious with the flu virus for as much as a week prior to displaying any signs of the actual illness.

It’s taught behaviour to keep your distance from people who are showing the clear signs of cold and flu, but the stealthy ones, who may not even know they have it themselves can be trickier to protect yourself against, mainly because you don’t know that they’ve got something you want to avoid and stay away from in order to remain healthy.

If you want to be an exemplary cold and flu prepper who can adopt prime common-sense flu season behaviours, here’s what you should think about doing:

  • Don’t sneeze into your hands as this simply covers your hands in germs and transfers them to whatever you and other people subsequently touch. Yuck!
  • If possible, sneeze into the pit of your arms because you won’t handle things with this part of your body.
  • Increase the number of times you wash your hands. When you’re out and about, you’d be amazed at how many things you come into contact with over the course of a day; particularly when you’re travelling. So, be mindful to wash your hands more frequently than usual to wash those germs away.
  • Try to keep your hands away from your face to stop germs from getting closer to your ear, nose and throat regions.
  • Reduce your artificial sugar intake. You should do this anyway, but more so during cold and flu season because it’s a recognised immune system suppressant.

flu season travel

Think like you’re still at home

Even though you are travelling, you can still conduct yourself in a way that you would if you were at home. By this we mean you should be conscious of getting plenty of rest, drinking ample amounts of warm fluids, swallowing tablets that reduce fevers.

Pack plenty of wipes and sanitiser

As we mentioned earlier, we touch lots of objects in a single day; on average, around 140! When you consider that you are travelling, you are likely to be touching a lot more than that while also inadvertently coming into contact with higher numbers of people and their germs.

To keep you as cold and flu-free as possible, you should pack plenty of antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser. Use the wipes to wipe down things like public sink taps, tray tables and other objects that will have been touched by someone who used it previously. You might look like you’re a germaphobe, but that’s better than coming down with something, right?

Capitalise on immune boosting activities

Three of the best ways to boost your immune system is to acquire high-quality sleep; around 7-9 hours for the average adult, Sleep Advisor advises. Melatonin has the ability to help with long flights that cause jet lag, and jet lag causes a weakened immune system.

You should also look to be physically active too. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that regular exercisers tended to have milder symptoms when they were ill in comparison to people who were very rarely physically active; symptoms were around 40% less severe overall.

Sunshine provides us with vitamin D which is vital for your immune system and for general health. Obviously, the cold and flu season typically hits when the weather isn’t so sunny, but if you’re moving through countries and their seasons, just look to get as much sun as possible (but stay protected with lotion, of course). You might even want to pack a Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) lamp for your travels.

Pack a pillow and blanket from home

If the flight comes with a blanket and pillow, then you have to bear in mind that it has been used by people in the past, which is going to have their germs on them; not ideal. As most airlines don’t offer either of these sleep aids anyway, it’s a good idea to pack your own.

Not only will you be staying safe in terms of contamination, using your own pillow and blanket means that you can be as comfortable as possible and doze off seamlessly if you wish, and you already know the benefits of sleeping to avoid getting sick, so it’s a win-win!


Jonny Duncan is a travel blogger and freelance photographer. He specialises in adventure and budget travel with over 20 years of experience. He started blogging in 2013 to give advice for other travellers. He has lived in Japan, Amsterdam, Kiev, and more.

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