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Traveling Sick: 3 Ways Your Travel Insurance Plan Can Help

Young girl blowing nose on train
Allianz - Young girl blowing nose on train

You may not think there’s a fate worse than falling ill right before a big trip.

But there is: traveling sick — battling fever, body aches, congestion, sore throat and a persistent cough that makes your presence known to fellow travelers, flight attendants, tour guides and others.

If you’re reading this article either before or smack in the middle of flu season — which begins around October and can stubbornly carry on through May — getting a flu shot should be atop your to-dos. Note that anyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), but be sure to check with your physician. Also, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective, so don’t assume you’re impervious to the steady stream of sniffles and coughs coming from your seatmate on a red-eye flight from Seattle to Atlanta if you were just vaccinated the previous day. 1

That sick seatmate hypothetical scenario is an apt cautionary tale for anyone traveling during flu season. That’s because researchers have confirmed your fears: traveling on planes elevates your odds of getting sick. Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences demonstrated that if there’s an infected passenger sitting within one or two seats beside you, or one row in front or behind you, then you stood an 80% chance of catching the virus. 2

Not the prognosis you were looking for, right? And the odds of having a mile-high neighbor meet this criteria is higher than you might think. That’s because while you may be the first person in line to get the flu shot when it’s released each year, only 45% of adults and 63% of children join you, according to CDC data. 3

This is just one of the many reasons that travelers can be more susceptible to the flu. Add the likelihood that you’re spending time in crowded areas — e.g., airports, museums, etc. And then there’s the possibility of having a weakened immune system thanks to jet lag, jam-jacked itineraries and general lack of sleep. That’s why washing your hands, wiping down tables and hotel vanities, and drinking plenty of water are all recommended.

Another important step you can take to help safeguard your travel plans from the flu is to purchase travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance. Here are three reasons why travel insurance is a good idea during flu season:

1. Travel insurance can help ease the financial burden of cancelling a trip (for a covered reason).

Have you been in that difficult spot before where you’re sick with the flu and wrestling whether or not to even take a trip? You make a list of the pros and the cons of going, and most prominent among the cons is losing money — namely, pre-paid, nonrefundable trip expenses including that suite overlooking the Chicago skyline and those front-row seats at Wrigley Field. With a travel insurance plan, you may not have to sweat a thing. Simply choose a plan that includes a Trip Cancellation benefit, and if you have a qualifying covered reason, you can submit a claim for reimbursement up to a plan’s maximum benefit amount.

Of course, you’ll need to be advised by a doctor not to travel, but it’s a far sunnier alternative than your other two options. Those include skipping the trip altogether — and losing out on the hard-earned money you saved — or scaring away your fellow Cubs fans with a cough that won’t quit. Plus, how much would you really enjoy that getaway? 4

2. Travel insurance can help you stay healthy — or deal with traveling sick.

While the health status of the person in the neighboring plane row or the previous guest in your hotel room can be chalked up to luck, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have the power to keep the odds of staying healthy in your favor.
One way to give your immune system a fighting chance while traveling during flu season is to keep a few key supplies nearby. These include:

  • Hand sanitizer: If you dislike the smell and sticky feeling of Purell, try other brands, such as Bath & Body Works' fragranced options or alcohol-free sanitizers.
  • Disinfecting wipes: These are essential for killing germs on airplane surfaces.
  • Travel packs of tissues: Offering a pack to your sneezing seatmate may save your sanity.
  • Pillow and blanket: Airline pillows and blankets are washed as infrequently as once per month, so bringing your own is a smart idea. 5
  • Saline nasal spray: Adding moisture to your nose can help boost your body’s germ defenses.

If you’re having trouble finding these items, there’s no need to worry. With Allianz Global Assistance’s travel hotline — a benefit that comes with every travel insurance plan — you can access multilingual aid 24/7. For example, you can get directions to the closest pharmacy and even receive the translation for the products you only know in English. 6

If you don’t want to make a call or take down the phone numbers, the TravelSmart app allows you to connect with expert help in just a few clicks.

And if things escalate from flu prevention to traveling sick mode, TravelSmart can also help you find nearby, pre-screened medical facilities to seek the anti-viral drugs that can weaken the flu’s debilitating symptoms and shorten its overall duration. 7, 8

3. Travel insurance can make the turbulence of traveling sick smoother.

A lost bag — that contains your tissues and meds. A travel delay, when all you want is a bed and 18 hours of sleep. We know that experiencing unexpected wrinkles with your travel plans can be frustrating when you’re perfectly healthy. But when you’re battling the flu, extra stress can prevent you from getting better sooner.

Thankfully, travel insurance can help remedy scenarios including lost or delayed bags by reimbursing you for the purchase of essential items during the delay. Additionally, a canceled flight is easier to stomach when you have a travel insurance plan with a travel delay benefit built to handle the cost of unplanned accommodations or other travel expenses. You should never have to sleep in a stiff terminal chair, healthy or sick. Be sure to consult your specific plan details to ensure you’re experiencing a covered reason and so you know the coverage limits.

Traveling sick can make it tough to enjoy any getaway. So get your flu shot. And pack your travel insurance. Then you’ll be ready to take on any travel itinerary during flu season — or any time of year.

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Nov 04, 2019