What is vacation sickness? Why do people get sick on holiday in the summer?


Many people perceive a summer trip to the sea or to warm countries as a way to improve their health and gain strength for the whole year. However, instead of improving health, holidays are often accompanied by colds. It can be either a mild, barely noticeable ailment, or a rather serious illness with symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough and fever. Professor Ed Wingerhots, of the Dutch University of Clinical Psychology, even defined this phenomenon by calling it “holiday sickness.” It is also called “tourist syndrome“. Of course, we are not talking about medical terms. But what causes vacation sickness? There is no single answer to this, but there are some assumptions, which we will discuss below.

Stress causes disease

Professor Ed Wingerhots conducted a survey of two thousand people, which showed that 3% of them experienced holiday sickness. The figure is small, but it should be borne in mind that many of the respondents could not attach importance to a slight indisposition or write off all the symptoms for acclimatization. Therefore, according to the professor, there can actually be much more sick people.

There is an opinion that vacation sickness is caused by a sharp transition from constant stress and active work to relaxation. But is it possible? As you know, adrenaline and cortisol are produced in stressful situations. These hormones improve concentration and activate the protective functions of the body. That is, they help us cope with stressful situations, for example, a large amount of work.

Holiday sickness can be caused by stress

Theoretically, when these hormones are no longer synthesized in large quantities, the immune system can fail. If this is true, theoretically, drinking coffee will help against vacation sickness. Earlier we said that coffee should not be drunk in the morning, as the drink stimulates the production of cortisol .

There are also opponents of this theory, who believe that during the rest, people on the contrary, experience more stress. For most people, daily work is a routine that does not cause stress. On vacation, stressful situations are everywhere – flying on an airplane, changing sleep patterns, and sometimes the climate, noisy neighbors in a hotel room, etc. It is possible that stress is one of the causes of the disease.

The sun’s rays depress the immune system

There is a common myth that along with a good tan, we also get protection from viruses. Allegedly, the sun’s rays strengthen the immune system. In addition, ultraviolet destroys viruses, which means that by staying in the sun for a long time, we seem to be disinfected. That is, all viruses in the body die, which means that the likelihood of getting sick is reduced to a minimum.

The sun’s rays not only kill viruses, but also suppress the human immune system.

But in fact, everything is exactly the opposite. Earlier we already said that the sun’s rays depress the immune system. They kill immune cells in both the upper and deeper layers of the skin. As a result, immune processes throughout the body are disrupted.

As a rule, when people come to the sea, they immediately begin to spend a long time in the sun, which probably causes a serious blow to immunity, instead of the expected recovery.

There is an increased risk of contracting a cold on an airplane

High risk of getting infected

During a holiday trip, people usually have to spend a long time in a closed space among a large number of other people. Therefore, the likelihood of catching a virus is higher than at other times. For example, according to statistics, only 1% of people get infected on airplanes. However, one study showed that a week after flying from San Francisco to Denver, 20% of people who flew on the plane had a cold.

According to experts, dry air in airplanes contributes to the spread of the virus. There is also a risk of catching ARI on the train, at the train station or at the airport. But what exactly becomes the main cause of illness during the holidays? It is most likely that a combination of factors causes the holiday sickness. During a trip or flight, the viral load increases, while the sun and stressful situations depress the immune system, as a result of which viruses begin to develop.

What to do to avoid getting sick on vacation? The advice in this case is standard, which must be followed throughout the year, and not just on vacation – eat healthy food, get enough sleep, and also play sports and do not forget to ventilate the room.

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