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sick woman thermometerI’ll admit this up front: Traveling sick is ill-advised.

But when does sick become too sick to travel? I imagine that most of us have been confronted by this question at one point or another, and if you’re like me, you’ve made the wrong decision: Get on the flight, hop on the train, jump on the ship.

Last week, I ended a four-night cruise awash in worries. Kyle, my teenage nephew, had battled an ugly stomach virus a few days earlier and was back on his feet — and eating like a pig again. But 12 hours before we were slated to get off the ship, I came down with the Plague. My throat became so sore I could barely breathe, my ears were clogged and I was coughing up stuff that appeared to have flaked off the Blob. Fearful that my nephew’s stomach flu was about to rear its ugly head and unable to sleep because of the congestion, I sat up in my bed worrying that there’d be no escape from Port Canaveral, Florida, after daybreak.

Day broke, and I was still feeling lousy. But there was a cause for celebration: It appeared I’d dodged the stomach virus and all its attendant horrors. The two of us finished packing our bags (in silence because I’d lost my voice, though Kyle didn’t seem to mind), then lumbered off the ship and into the central Florida sunshine. I felt woozy as the shuttle bus departed the port, then fell asleep for the 40-minute drive to Orlando’s airport.

Exhausted, lightheaded and achy, I checked in for my flight and soon found another reason to celebrate: I could get on an earlier flight to Philly instead of waiting around the airport for five hours. By this time, Kyle was pretending he didn’t know me; I think he would have FedEx’d me home if he could have. The two of us bumped elbows in farewell (he didn’t want to catch my germs), and he headed toward his flight to Boston.

Traveling While Sick: Should You Do It?

Filled with guilt and anxiety over whether I’d make it home in one piece, I entered the aircraft and took my seat. Was it really fair to share my cold (or whatever it was) with everyone else on the plane? How would I feel if someone coughing up God-knows-what sat next to me? Shouldn’t I be lying in bed somewhere with a priest by my side?

Then the cacophony started. Behind me, next to me, even up in business class, passengers were coughing and nose-blowing, almost in harmony. A woman rushed to the bathroom seconds after the pilot told us it was safe to get up and didn’t return for a long, long time.

I slept a bit, but the nonstop hacking was hard to ignore. I got off the plane two hours later feeling sicker than when I got on, and I wondered: Did anyone feel the least remorse about sharing their illness with me?

— written by John Deiner

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4 Responses to “Traveling When Sick: A Prescription for Trouble”

  1. Sue says:

    Sometimes coughing is an environmental thing, like in my case. Just because I cough, does not mean I am sick…just that our air quality has gotten worse over the years .

  2. KenSanDiego says:

    It should be a felony for people to travel using public transportation when sick. I am appalled at the people who freely admit they have no moral objection to infecting everyone around them with a cloud of disease. You all are terrorists! YOU are the reason I get sick when I fly and have to spend 10 days in recovery when returning from a cruise. You LIE and commit perjury when you sign your health declaration that you are healthy. Shame on all of you. You should all be locked up.

  3. Mary says:


    Not sure what is expected. You are going home after a vacation what are you surpose to do get a hotel room for a weeek,or few days obly to find out the plane you get on has a bunch of people with colds. Airlines do not make it better. I got sick once the day we were leaving ( a cold) I was with my parents. then a few years ago I was in Paris and came down with a cold the night before I was to leave. I am sorry I don’t think I was rude. you don’t think anyone who rented the hotel room I just left did not get my cold. Just think pillows

  4. Debra says:

    The Japanese have the right idea: wear a face mask if you could be contagious but cannot avoid going out. Seriously, we should get over our inclination to stare (& our phobia of being stared at) & just be grateful that someone is being careful of our health if they can’t avoid going out. (What were you going to do? Strand yourself in Florida?)

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