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Tips for staying safe while traveling this summer

Your summer vacation this year is probably not shaping up as planned. While there’s always been health issues and risks associated with traveling, this summer, one of the biggest risks of is acquiring or transmitting COVID-19.

As you find new and different ways to enjoy your summer break and get away from your normal routine, here are some tips for staying safe while traveling.

Understand your risk for acquiring and/or spreading COVID-19. You should research your destination to see if it is a hot spot for the disease and know your restrictions upon entering or leaving the area. Some states require a quarantine period if you have traveled to a hot spot or live in an area with widespread disease. You may also want to make sure that any attractions you want to visit have the proper restrictions to keep you safe. Additionally, if you are traveling with a group of people, make sure you understand the risks of being with people from different areas of the country.

Follow all local guidelines while traveling and keep up to date on the latest travel advisories and information provided by local, state, and national public health officials.

Even if you don’t have symptoms, you may have acquired and can still spread COVID-19 to others while traveling. Be smart, follow precautions related to social distancing and hand hygiene, and wear your mask.

• Pack a first aid kit and don’t forget a thermometer. You want to be prepared just in case you or someone in your travel group gets sick. Your first aid kit should include:

• Your health insurance cards

• Your prescription medicine to last or your entire trip plus a few extra days

• Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (composed of 60% alcohol or above)

• Band-aids and basic first-aid supplies

• Insect repellent

• Sunscreen

• Extra masks and face coverings

• Thermometer for daily temperature checks (a COVID-19 symptom)

• Wash your hands. With the spread of COVID-19, we know that washing your hands for 30 seconds with soap and water can help stop the spread of germs — that is true of all germs. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

• Prevent bug bites. Your first aid kit should have plenty of bug repellent for you and your family. Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and files can spread diseases that have lasting consequences. Apply your sunscreen before you apply bugspray, and be sure to pack any additional supplies to prevent insects from being a nuisance while traveling such as bug nets for sleeping or appropriate protective clothing featuring long sleeves and pants.

• Chose safe transportation. We’re seeing the return of the road trip vacation as many people are opting to vacation closer to home or drive on long trips rather than fly. Whenever you’re in the car, always wear your seatbelt. Before hitting the road, make sure your car is in good condition and ready to handle the trip you have planned. If you use ride-sharing services once you arrive at your destination, make sure they are highly rated, following proper precautions, and are cleaning the vehicle between rides, and always wear a mask while in a ride-sharing vehicle.

• Do not travel if you are sick. If you have any symptoms of sickness or if you have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days, do not travel until your sickness subsides or you’ve been cleared by your health care provider. Also, do not travel with someone who is sick.

When you return

When you get back from your trip, be mindful of and observe any travel restrictions and recommendations from your local public health officials. Many states have self-quarantine periods in place for individuals who’ve visited states associated with COVID-19 hot spots.

If you are not feeling well when you return, contact your primary care provider. Let them know where you have been, including all the places you went on your trip, what you did there, and who you were in contact with. This information will help your doctor decide the best treatment plan and any follow-up care or testing that you may need.

While your summer cruise or international backpacking trip might be on hold, there’s still plenty of fun waiting right outside your backdoor or within driving distance. Take time this summer to get out and disconnect from the world for a little while. We’ve all earned a little break after what we’ve been through this spring. Just do so safely.

Dr. Rutul Dalal is medical director of infectious diseases and chairman of Infection Prevention and Control at UPMC in the Susquehanna region. For more information on COVID-19, visit UPMC.edu/COVID19.

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