Picture this scenario: You are going on a holiday and feel all bright and sunny in anticipation. Suddenly, just a day before you are to jet off, you fall miserably ill and can barely drag yourself out of bed to pack and get to the airport.
What's worse, the rest of your trip is ruined not just for you, but also for your family, with your incessant sneezing and hacking away.
We all know the misery of being sick in a strange country - when what was supposed to be a much deserved holiday turns into a nightmare.
Catching the flu is not a pleasant experience, and the symptoms (e.g. fever and sore throat) are not unfamiliar to us.
The flu is easy to catch as it is spread through the inhalation of air droplets which are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. You can also get it when you touch contaminated shared surfaces such as tables, arm rests or door handles.
But with a little bit of forward thinking and planning, you can guard yourself and your loved ones against the unpleasant effects of the flu.
You may have already bought a travel package for a family vacation this December. Don't ruin it for everybody by taking these five necessary precautions to keep healthy:
Get the shot
An influenza vaccination may sting for a minute, but it's nothing compared to the agony you will face in the scenario above.
Travellers are recommended to vaccinate two weeks before leaving the country.
Do not think you can skip the flu shot because you are healthy. Healthy individuals should go for an influenza vaccination because the flu virus is ever adapting, and our immune systems may not always be up-to-date. Hence, a yearly vaccination will help update our immune systems against nasty surprises.
If we protect ourselves, we protect our loved ones too.
The flu vaccination is strongly recommended for the elderly and their caregivers, very young children aged six months to five years, and people with low immunity or suffering from a chronic disease such as diabetes. Pregnant women will also benefit from the shot.
The flu vaccination is easily available at all polyclinics and most private clinics. Ask your doctor for more information.
Wash your hands properly
Do you often just wash your hands with running water? If you do, then you are doing it wrong.
Washing your hands with water can sufficiently remove visible dirt, but you've forgotten about germs. Germs are not visible to the human eye, and you need to use soap along with water to get rid of them.
During travel, washing facilities may not be readily available. So remember to pack a hand sanitiser and use that instead.
You should wash your hands:
- Before and after meals
- Before handling food
- Before caring for a loved one (babies, the elderly)
- After using the toilet
- After blowing your nose (even with a tissue)
- After touching shared surfaces like tabletops, doorknobs, handrails, etc.
Use tissues or masks
Pack lots and lots of these essential items. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms before or during your trip, always put on a mask.
This way, you protect your family and friends from catching the flu bug from you.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. This prevents the release of respiratory droplets into the air, protecting your loved ones close to you.
Dispose of the used tissues into a covered dustbin and wash your hands after doing so.
Head to the doctor
Would you rather pay for a doctor's consultation and medication, or much more for a ruined holiday? Not the latter of course.
If you suspect you are down with the flu, see a doctor immediately, rest in and wear a mask until you have recovered.
Even if you don't feel too sick, note that most adults with the flu virus are infectious even before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. Children may carry the virus for more than seven days.
If you are unwell, rest at home. Avoid school, work, travel and crowded places to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
Take a breather from physical activities like running and jogging.
With the right hygiene habits and an understanding of how the flu virus spreads, we can keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
For more information, visit www.hpb.gov.sg or call 1800 223 1313.