Protect Yourself This Flu Season

man getting injection
One of the deadliest and most severe flu seasons on record was experienced last year, resulting in about 80,000 fatalities in the United States alone. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that this surpassed the previous three-decade high of 56,000 deaths during a regular flu season. The prevalence of influenza was also widespread, with around 34 million Americans infected and 710,000 hospitalized. Reports of the initial deaths in both adults and children have already been announced for this flu season. Therefore, it is crucial to get vaccinated as soon as possible, as there is no better time to do so.


Despite the above-quoted figures, one poll found that one-third of American parents won’t be getting their children vaccinated this year. While the strains of flu circulating are unpredictable, the first line of defense to protect yourself and your loved ones is a comprehensive flu shot that protects against as many strains as you can. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, you should visit your local pharmacy as soon as possible, because it takes approximately two weeks for the immunization to be complete. Other than getting your flu shot, there are other things you can do to boost your immunity, as we’ve written about here. But with holiday travel season in full swing, there are a few more important precautions you can take to keep your family healthy.


This first tip might seem impossible, but stress and lack of sleep are huge drags on your immune system. For flights, pack a comfy travel pillow, eye mask, and earplugs to ensure you’re comfortable and able to squeeze in as much sleep as possible. If you’re driving, it’s great to have a co-pilot with whom you can trade off. Even if you have difficulty sleeping in the car, taking a rest from the stress of holiday traffic is a great tool in the toolkit of staying healthy. Jet lag negatively affects sleep, which then ripples on to your immune system. If you’re crossing time zones, one thing you can do to avoid jet lag is to take melatonin around whatever time sunset is in the time zone you’re traveling to. Do this for the week before you travel. And when you get to your destination, do what you can to get sunshine at least on your bare face without sunglasses on, especially in the morning. Sunlight cues the body’s natural melatonin production, and morning sun will help reset your circadian rhythms.


It is recommended that you wash your hands frequently whenever you are near a clean sink. It is also advisable to carry hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes with you at all times. Before settling into your seat on a plane or train, make sure to wipe down surfaces such as armrests and seatbelt buckles. Additionally, ensure that your travel companions are also following good hygiene practices, as one individual not doing so could jeopardize everyone’s health.


Do some light exercise, like the 7-minute workout, when you get to your destination. Try to do at least the bare minimum of exercise the entire time you’re traveling unless you start to feel worn down or like your immune system has already been compromised. Exercise promotes good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently. If you’re worried that you have a good chance of infection, be sure not to overdo, as excessive activity can have the reverse effect and make you more susceptible.


To put it lightly, tap water on flights is not the gold standard. Buy bottled water after you get through security and either avoid alcohol or temper it with eight ounces of water between each alcoholic beverage. If you’re fighting off germs from airports, airplanes, nieces, nephews, etc., you don’t want to add too much of an extra burden to your immune system. If you want to take your hydration and detoxing to the next level, add a pinch of sea salt to your water for a boost of electrolytes for faster hydration and better water absorption.


If you start to feel symptomatic of the flu (or even a cold!), treat it early. The holidays are a busy time, and delaying treatment will ensure that things will get worse. Plus, you run a distinct chance of getting your loved ones sick too. This is why, if you’re traveling—one of the most immune-screwing activities devised by modernity—it’s especially handy to have access to a service like Teladoc. Luckily for you, Alliance Direct Benefits is committed to helping you stay healthy all year round. Alliance Plus Members save up to 40% on all CVS-brand eligible health-related items (like cough and cold meds and hand sanitizer) and there are discounts available on lab tests, MRI, CT, and/or PET imaging, and prescription and emergency assistance. Alliance Plus and Value Plan Members get access to Teladoc, a 24/365 national network of U.S. board-certified physicians available to answer any medical questions you might have. For more information, and to become an Alliance member, visit the Alliance Direct Benefits website today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (M–F, 7:00AM–5:30PM Central Time).