Flu season is already upon us and let's face it, most parents are not just worried, we're terrified. Although logically we know vaccinations and adequate precautions are the best we can do to prevent the flu we still fear for our children's health especially if they are little. So what about travel? With so much attention focused on the H1N1 virus this season many of us may fear going outside our door and would much less consider traveling to another country but with proper precautions travel can be no more dangerous than every day activities at home.
The CDC and WHO are not recommending restricted travel for healthy people because the virus has already spread worldwide. High-risk travelers should consult a doctor prior to travel to areas reporting H1N1 flu. These include:
- Kids younger than 5
- People 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- People of all ages with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
- Kids and teens younger than 18 who are on long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk of Reye's syndrome after influenza virus infection.
- Adults and children with weak immune systems, including immune system suppression caused by medicines or by HIV.
Before travel make sure to prepare. Get vaccinated and get your kids vaccinated for both seasonal as well as H1N1 flu. Children under age 9 who are receiving the vaccine for the first time should receive two doses spread 4 weeks apart so make sure to start your preparations at least 8 to 5 weeks prior to travel. Try to maintain a healthy immune system by eating (and feeding your kids) good foods that include a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, dairy and other nutrient rich food. Make sleep for you and your kids a priority. Well-rested kids are less likely to get sick. Of course consult travel advisors of the country you'll be traveling to and subscribe to email alerts from them as well as the CDC & WHO.
If you're sick, stay home. Some airlines are waiving change fees if you can provide documentation of having the flu but to be safe inquire prior to booking. Travel insurance may also be well worth it's cost as is health insurance for your trip since most plans don't cover medical costs abroad.
While traveling, take sensible precautions. Keep your hands and your kids' hands clean. Teach them the importance of washing for 20 seconds or more and carry plenty of antibacterial wipes or alcohol-based gels. Teach them to keep their hands away from their face so the germs can't get into their nose, eyes, or mouth. Stay away from very crowded areas. If you must take public transportation do so before or after morning or afternoon rush hours. Inquire about less busy times at attractions and museums and try to plan your visits then. If you notice someone who is visibly sick stay at least 8 feet away if possible. If not possible, because they are your ticket vendor or stewardess, etc. then simply make sure to wash or disinfect your hands as soon as possible after contact with them or anything they were in contact with and still make an effort to keep your hands away from your face.
Although the H1N1 flu has proven to come with serious complications we have to remember that all flus cause these complications and they are all spread the same way.
My 19 month old recently had the flu. She caught it after being around her school aged cousins. She's been a very healthy baby so it was devastating to see her so sick. She had a high fever, no appetite (couldn't even get her to take liquids), and was almost listless. She only wanted to be held and cried about everything. We noticed her not acting like herself and took her to the pediatrician right before the symptoms were full blown. They tested her for Flu and she proved positive for Flu A (H1N1 is a strain of Flu A). That same day we started with the Tamiflu but because she wasn't eating she kept throwing up after we gave her the dose.
I guess some of it must have been absorbed because after the first two doses and an alternating constant regimen of acetaminophen and ibuprofen every three hours she started eating a bit and drinking water. For two days we were on egg shells terrified that her illness would develop into something much more serious but thankfully she started improving. By day three she almost seemed back to normal. She had a little cough but none the worse for it. It took a few more days to get completely over it and by then our pediatrician confirmed it was H1N1.
I share this to illustrate my point... yes it can be dangerous but it can also be no worse than seasonal flu IF you take care. Get treatment at the first sign of illness. Don't think twice. See your doctor or take your child to see theirs right away and get them tested for flu. The window for the antiviral to work is narrow and you can miss it if you wait too long.
Regardless, don't fear travel, just take sensible precautions and your trip can be just the same and as enjoyable as any other non-flu time of year.