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Catch Me If You Can

Keep clear of the cold and flu this season by packing smart.

Getting sick can sidetrack any business owner. But there are few things worse than succumbing to a bad bug while on the road. With the cold and flu season right around the corner, here are four items every business traveler should pack.

  • Hand Cleaners: Experts agree that most germs are spread among humans via dirty hands. So pack a few individually wrapped antibacterial towelettes or a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer--neither is as good as soap and warm water, but they'll suffice if you can't find a sink. During cold and flu season, make it a point not to touch your mouth, nose or eyes unless your hands are clean.
  • Medicines: Frequent travelers are exposed to germs more than nontravelers are, so get a flu shot. Also, carry a mentholated inhaler, which can alleviate sinus pain and pressure during airplane takeoffs and landings. Consider a longer-lasting decongestant spray like Afrin, which helps keep nasal passages open for several hours (but can be overly drying in airplane cabin air). And don't forget the standard aspirin, ibuprofen or Tylenol to help reduce fever and make you feel better.
  • Homeopathics: Many travelers swear by Airborne, a cocktail of vitamins, herbs and minerals in a fruity, fizzy tablet you dissolve in water. Also popular are Zicam, a zinc-based gel used to coat your nasal passages, and Cold-Eeze, a throat lozenge that contains zinc. Both claim the zinc helps reduce the duration of a cold.
  • Protective Gear: Just as your mother told you, carry tissues. Use them if your nose is running, or to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent spreading your bug to fellow travelers. In Asia, it's popular for sick people to wear surgical masks to avoid spreading germs. For protection, have one on hand in case you get stuck in a plane, train, bus or airport gate surrounded by sneezing and wheezing fellow passengers.
Chris McGinnis is author of The Unofficial Business Travelers' Pocket Guide.

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This article was originally published in the December 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Catch Me If You Can.

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