Safer Flying During Flu Season & Other Winter Travel Tips From MEDEX Assistance

BALTIMORE, Dec. 8 /PRNewswire/ — Winter travel – particularly at peak holiday time – can be a frequent contributor to contagions from colds and coughs to this year’s strain of influenza. Whether one finds themselves breathing the recirculated air in a jetliner, stranded in an airport with crowds of sneezing, wheezing fellow travelers, commuting crammed into a crowded bus or train or simply touching the door handle of a taxi cab, ’tis most certainly the season for colds and flu.

Still, according to Dr. Walter B. “Ben” Koppel, medical director of the Baltimore-based MEDEX Assistance Corporation, one of the world’s leading providers of emergency medical and security assistance for travelers, the cliche about an ounce of prevention is actually very sound advice, provided it is not taken to extremes (such as mega-dosing Vitamin C, which can lead to complications such as kidney stones).

“With all the attention being paid to the threat of an Avian flu pandemic that has not yet morphed into extended human-to-human transmission, it is vitally important that people not forget to get a flu shot for the strain that will be going around this season,” warns Dr. Koppel.

“Indeed, should the Avian flu actually begin being transmitted person-to- person, it will be easier to recognize and diagnose in people who have already been immunized to the more conventional flu bug. With Avian flu diagnosis and treatment must begin within 48 hours of symptoms presenting … there’s not a lot of time to wonder which flu it is.”

For those concerned with the possibility of contracting the Avian flu or who are planning travel to areas of Asia where incidents of the illness have occurred, Dr. Koppel recommends visiting the MEDEX Assistance website – — to download the comprehensive and free Avian Flu preparedness report.

Dr. Koppel emphasizes that, contrary to popular wisdom, it is not cold weather that causes colds and flu. “Popular winter travel venues — whether in colder or warmer climates — can increase the risk of colds and flu. The change in the air coming into your lungs is enough to trigger viral growth in lungs and sinuses. Primarily, it is not weather but people that contribute the most to the passing of colds and flu.”

Dr. Ben Koppel’s Top Travel Tips:

1- Most germs spread by contact. However you travel, wherever you go,
wash your hands frequently and carry moist towellettes – even baby
wipes — for times when soap and water are not available.

2- While the flu shot is readily available, there is also a nasal spray
flu vaccine (for ages 5-49 only). In the rare instance that no flu
vaccine of any description is available, consult with your Doctor
about three preventative prescription drugs: Tamiflu (effective for
influenza A and B virus strains) or Symmetrel and Slumadine (both
effective for influenza A only).

3- Reduce holiday stress. Stress decreases immunity, making one more
susceptible to disease. At minimum, avoid caffeine and other
stimulants which increase heart rate and can heighten feelings of

4- When traveling in cramped quarters or on long flights, avoid Deep Vein
Thrombosis (DVT) which can cause blood clots in the legs, by walking
around, stretching your legs and flexing your ankles in an up and down
motion about once every hour and a half.

5- Keep prescription medications in their original pharmacy-labeled
containers to avoid questions at customs and pack them in your carry-
on bag to ensure that they are easily accessible and secure.

6- When traveling by air with babies, equalize their ear pressure during
takeoffs and landings by giving infants a pacifier or baby bottle to
suck on. Older children and adults can alleviate ear pressure by
chewing gum.

7- Be prepared with affordable, emergency medical kits, particularly when
traveling to locales where even basic medical care can be iffy. MEDEX
Assistance recommends packing an emergency medical kit that can
include temporary solutions for a lost dental filling to sealed
packages of sterile sutures and syringes.

For additional travel tips, Avian flu reports and information about MEDEX Assistance programs, policies and emergency travel medical kits, call toll- free 1-800-537-2029 or visit the website at

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