You’re on day three of a seven-day work trip when you feel the thing you’ve been dreading: a scratchy throat, a ticklish nose — telltale signs of illness coming on. Your thoughts begin to stray from the board meeting you’re supposed to be preparing for, and eventually you want nothing more than to go back to your hotel room and crash.
Salespeople, consultants and other frequent work travelers know that staying healthy while traveling is imperative. One study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM) found that a sick person sitting in the aisle seat on a plane has an 80% chance of infecting everyone in that row as well as those in the row in front and behind them.
Even if you always make sure to cover your cough, you can’t guarantee everyone around you will. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from the misery of traveling while sick.
Covering the Basics
Staying healthy on the road isn’t exactly simple. Navigating restaurant menus, bumping up against countless strangers, dealing with jet lag and adapting to time changes can all throw your immune system out of whack. Couple that with the emotional stress of being away from home and family, and it’s no wonder you might fall ill on a business trip.
Here, preventive care comes to the rescue. Keep your immune system’s defenses up by following the same healthy habits you do at home. Try to stick to a nutritious diet and work in some exercise by hitting the hotel gym or swinging by the pool to swim laps when you can.
Business travelers often report anxiety and symptoms of depression when traveling, according to the JOEM study. But traveling doesn’t have to mean neglecting your mental health. Consider using telemedicine to stay in touch with your mental health professional.
Maintaining Your Medication Supply on the Road
Left your meds sitting on the kitchen counter at home? If you’re stateside and your pharmacy is a national chain, give them a call. They can probably transfer an emergency supply to a nearby store. If you’re abroad, you’ll need to call your physician’s office or travel insurance company, if you have it, for assistance.
Ask your hotel’s concierge about seeing an in-house or local doctor who can either examine you briefly or phone your physician’s office and give you a new prescription. The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers has a list of English-speaking doctors in nearly 100 countries who can assist you in a pinch.
Handling a Medical Emergency While Traveling
Nobody wants to come down with a serious illness or injury while traveling for work. Beyond being uncomfortable and distracting, it can leave you stuck paying thousands of dollars out of pocket because you’re outside your network (or even your country). Most health insurance policies won’t cover you during international travel. Contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible if you do need treatment — especially if you’re admitted to the hospital — to find out your coverage limitations.
Purchasing a short-term travel health insurance policy or accident insurance plan before your trip can be one route to staying healthy while traveling. Depending on the policy, travel insurance is usually inexpensive and typically even covers emergency treatment and repatriation (being transported back to the United States). Make sure it has what you need in terms of network areas and preexisting conditions. You may also want specific activity coverage if you’ll be skiing or zip-lining. Don’t overlook your credit card as a source of medical coverage, either. Some cards provide global medical coverage and travel accident insurance that could mean you’re already covered.
Traveling for work can be a much-needed change of scenery when you’re stuck in the home/office/gym rut every day. It should be a fun experience, and being prepared and knowing what your health emergency coverage is before the trip will keep it that way.