The busiest travel days of the year are approaching, and the American College of Emergency Physicians urges anyone visiting family or friends during the holiday season to take all available steps to avoid getting sick with COVID-19 or the seasonal flu.
If you plan on traveling or getting together for the holidays, emergency physicians offer these tips:
Get your flu and COVID shot. Getting vaccinated is the strongest protection available against severe illness, hospitalization, or death from COVID. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and recommended for everyone ages five and older. As the winter chill sets in, emergency physicians are also concerned about COVID mixing with the seasonal flu, so getting a flu shot in addition to a COVID vaccine will give everyone a better chance to stay healthy and avoid hospitalization.
Cover your face when in public. Even if you’re vaccinated, health officials recommend you wear a mask while in public, indoor spaces, especially where there are high numbers of cases in the community. That choice can also increase protection for those at high risk of severe illness, such as the unvaccinated or anyone with a weakened immune system.
Make smart travel choices. The CDC advises that those who are not fully vaccinated delay their travel plans. Holiday travelers can protect themselves and each other by following local safety guidelines, social distancing, and covering their face. Many travelers should also consider getting tested before they leave for a trip and once they return.
Prioritize safety as a host or houseguest. To reduce the risk of spreading the virus, small groups gathering outside are safer than those inside. Some hosts may feel more comfortable confirming the vaccination status of house guests before they arrive. Those who are sick or have symptoms should not host or attend a gathering.
Disrupting plans is never ideal. However, the choices made during this tough time could be life or death decisions. Everyone has unique circumstances, and it may be best to contact a health professional to discuss the options that will most effectively avoid putting friends or family at risk.
Remember, emergency physicians work 24/7, even on holidays. Do not ignore your symptoms if you think you are having a medical emergency—if something is wrong call 911 or visit your closest emergency department.