Traveling While Sick: 7 Tips to Help You Feel Better

Traveling while sick tips

Traveling while sick is a nightmare! Who in their right mind would want to willingly board a plane under the duress of nausea, fatigue, shivers, and an upset stomach? I’m going to take a wild guess and say “no one”.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to change your travel plans at the drop of a hat. If you’re traveling for business or taking a long-anticipated family vacation, your options are limited. Canceling your travel plans could cost you big dollars.

However, you may need to weigh whether continuing to travel while sick will worsen your condition or if you can weather the storm.

traveling while sick
Flying while sick is pure misery. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

My own sick travel dilemma

Last weekend I had the pleasure of catching a “bug”. At the time, I didn’t realize my sickness would be short-lived, so I prepared myself for the worst. The last thing on my mind was traveling while sick. All I knew was that I had a flight in 4 days, I needed to get better quickly, or find a “band-aid” to help me make it through the flight.


Most of the times, it takes a good 24 hours to realize what’s really going on with our bodies when we fall sick. Fevers love to peak in that first day, aches begin their run, and then congestion starts to run its course.

That incubation period can make it hard to know what we’re dealing with or what we need to do to get better.

Luckily, my ailment (nausea, fatigue, headache, upset stomach) only lasted 24 hours. By the next day I was at 90%, weak but mostly recuperated. In my situation, there was no need for anything more than rest and detoxification.

Prolonged and more severe symptoms (persistent high fever or cough, red and patchy tonsils, vomiting, dizziness, palpitations, etc.) call for a visit to the doctor.

traveling while sick
Netipots (photo courtesy of the

7 Tips for traveling while sick

So what quick and simple action can you take if you’re traveling while sick and have very few cancellation options? I’m not a doctor, but here are a few things that helped me, some of which WebMD also suggests:

    1. Rest

      This is easier said then done for the busy mom or the preoccupied business person but it’s necessary. If your body is tired, it doesn’t have the basic mechanism to help fight and fix what’s wrong with you. Unfortunately, you can’t compromise on this. The more rest you get, the stronger you’ll be.

    2. Hydration

      If you weren’t drinking your 8 glasses before, now’s the time to get that aqua into your system. Clean water helps to flush your system out and keep all the necessary membranes in good working order.

    3. Fasting

      Fasting is imperative if you have a stomach bug or virus. Drinking only water, green tea, and fruit juices (assuming you can keep it in ya), help to flush the toxins out your system and detoxify you.

    4. Vitamin C Supplements

      An increase in Vitamin C may help to boost your immune system and strengthen your defenses. The daily recommended value is 500 mg but you can easily find 1000 mg tablets in your local drug store.

    5. Neti pot

      These are ceramic pots that use a salt water solution to flush out your nasal passages, clearing it of pollen and possibly viruses. I use a neti pot religiously during allergy season and it provides amazing relief.

    6. Saline nasal spray

      WebMD suggests using it before and after the flight: “The plane air is so dry and that dries out your mucus membranes, which reduces your resistance to infection, but keeping these membranes moist with saline spray may help.”

    7. Protect yourself from other sick people

      If you’re comfortable with it, go ahead and break out the face mask. People in other parts of the world have no qualms about it, so why should we.

These suggestions are also great preventative measures, as well, for avoiding sicknesses.  Remember, consult your doctor if your body is feeling especially abnormal. Any sickness that lasts more than a few days may need professional medical attention.


  1. K Miller says

    I have had the pleasure of traveling while sick and it was not fun. I think we forget to pack certain items to help us through a sick spell should one arise. I can see some much needed additions to my packing list including vitamin C and nasal spray.

  2. Richard says

    If you are sick, dont travel. I consider it rude and vile human behaviour to expose countless hundreds to your ailment. If you are sick, STAY HOME. I have no sympathy for sick travelers and consider them rude.
    Just last nigh I had the pleasure of being seated next to a sick traveler. He coughed and snorted what I calculate to be about a gallon of snot during the hour long flight. He hacked and coughed every 15 seconds. There was no peace for anybody near him. When I asked why he was traveling he said he was traveling to watch the bowl game with his buddies. What an ASS.

  3. worldtravelmom says

    Richard, I couldn’t help but crack up at your comment because you’re obviously pissed off from your recent trip. And it’s a shame that you had to sit next to a “hacking, coughing, ASS.” However, we can’t control getting sick – Lord knows we all wish we could and changing travel plans on the fly isn’t always feasible. People need to get to work, duty, family, wherever. If the airlines didn’t charge folks their first born to make travel changes, maybe some people would delay their journeys. And then maybe some won’t. In situations like these, where you had to be exposed to a sickly passenger, the ideal thing would have been to either quarantine him (that’ll never happen) or the flight attendants could supply him with a face mask. Hey, that’s a thought. But hopefully my suggestions will help people who don’t have a choice when they get sick while traveling.

    • Amy says

      I am sick right now and have to fly home tomorrow. I can’t afford another night in my hotel and I can’t afford to change or cancel my flight. I really need to get back home so what choice do I have? I’m loaded up on mucinex, sudafed, nasal spray, vitamin C, and cough drops, but I have to get on that plane. Of course that means I’ll be miserable and likely prolong and increase the severity of my cold (or whatever it is), but at least I won’t be coughing or leaking and I’ll ask for a mask. That guy should’ve stayed home, but at the least he could’ve drugged himself to mitigate symptoms and worn a mask.

      • worldtravelmom says

        Yes, he should have worn a mask. I think the airlines should keep them stashed on the plane as well. Hope you feel better. Rest, water, and all the meds you’re taking will probably sustain you. If you have to get home, you have to get home. People can’t always afford to change their travel plans on a dime.

    • tawanna browne smith says

      Hi Jessie, You can fly with a fever under certain conditions. The CDC notes you should not travel if you: ” Have a fever of 100° F (38° C) or greater AND one or more of the following:
      Understand How Infectious Diseases Are Spread
      Obvious signs of illness (e.g., severe headache, weakness, skin and eyes turning yellow)
      Skin rash
      Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
      Persistent, severe cough
      Confusion, especially if it has just started
      Bruising or bleeding (without previous injury)
      Diarrhea that does not go away
      Vomiting that does not go away (other than motion sickness)
      Some airlines check for visibly sick passengers in the waiting area and during boarding. If you look like you may be sick, the airline may not let you get on the plane.”

      Due to the current global health climate, I must point out that if you have knowingly been exposed to someone with Ebola then you should consult a doctor immediately and NOT board a plane.

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