Should You Self-Isolate After Traveling?

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By News Team on July 17, 2020

Are you planning to travel for business or pleasure this summer?

Be sure you have an extra two weeks to spare in case you need to self-isolate when you return.

Epidemiologists and infectious disease experts agree that this year, a staycation is a much better idea than a travel vacation.

Among the considerations the CDC recommends before you decide is whether the state or local governments at home or at your destination require you to self-isolate after traveling.

Not only that, your employer may require you to self-isolate following certain activities, including travel. This is especially true—and important—if you work with people who are sick or otherwise vulnerable to infections.

But if you must travel, Carilion Clinic's Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, M.D. offers advice on how to do it safely, and what to do when you get back home.
 
Traveling Safely
Start with the basics:

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Practice social distancing by staying at least six feet from others, avoiding crowds and mass gatherings and limiting close contact with anyone not in your household
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and with alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available
  • Wear a mask whenever you are in public places, such as a grocery store or gas station

For guidance about traveling by car, and precautions to take before you hit the road and during your drive, see Is It Safe To Visit Grandpa?

Learn how to stay safe when traveling in tight quarters with strangers by visiting Planes, Trains, Automobiles...and Coronavirus.

Bring your disinfectant with you to minimize the risk of exposure in Hotels, Motels and Vacation Rentals.

And as for when you come home, Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie offers his expert guidance as medical director of Carilion Clinic's Infection Prevention and Control Department.

When You Return Home
Like many things related to COVID-19, self-isolation after travel depends on various factors.

Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie points out that even if you don’t feel ill, the type of work you do may determine whether self-isolation is called for.

“If you care for sick people and travel to a high-risk area, self-isolation is prudent,” he says.

On the other hand, if you have practiced social distancing, worn a face mask and practiced good hand hygiene consistently, then you might want to watch for symptoms before making a decision about self-isolation.

Once you have been home a few days, Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie recommends reaching out to the people you were close to while traveling.

“Find out if they are still doing well,” he says. “If they became sick a day or two after you left them and are being tested for COVID, you want to quickly self-isolate and let your doctor know as well.”

Limiting exposure to others is crucial, because, as Dr. Baffoe-Bonnie points out, reaching out to those you were in contact with while traveling would not be feasible if you were with large crowds of people.

“That’s why one of the things we encourage is, when one has to meet with crowds or with multiple people, try and make it as small and manageable a number as possible and preferably outdoors.”

See us safely at CarilionClinic.org/safe.

As always, and like never before, we're here to see you safely through all your health care needs. Visit CarilionClinic.org/safe to learn how. For up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19, visit CarilionClinic.org/coronavirus.