5 Reasons He'll Get Sick of You
5 Reasons You Always Get Sick When You Travel—And How To Stay Healthy
Mass transit is the likeliest culprit behind vacation sniffles. "You're around more people than usual, in an enclosed space," says Angarone. In airplanes, for example, "the air gets filtered out, but you're sitting with a lot of other people in close proximity, so if the person next to you has a virus and they're sneezing or coughing, that increases your chances of becoming infected." (We all know sneezing spreads germs, but see just how far your sneeze travels.)
Wondering if the cabin pressure is also messing with your sinuses? Angarone says it might make you temporarily congested, but that sensation generally wears off within a couple hours of landing and it doesn't increase your chances of actually getting sick.
Best defense:If you're traveling during flu season (October-April in the Northern Hemisphere), get vaccinated, advises Angarone. And if you're headed to a foreign country, you should also pack common cold remedies, since it may be difficult to find your favorites abroad. Remember that public surfaces are covered in germs, so make sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after touching them and before touching your face or mouth.
It's easy to underestimate threats that are still prevalent elsewhere in the world if they're not so common where you live. For example, says Angarone, we don't see a lot of malaria and typhoid in the US, so they might not be on your radar—but depending on where you're headed, they should be. Same goes for zika and a slew of other potentially dangerous viruses, bacteria, and parasites. (Find out what your actual risk of getting a mosquito-borne illness is.)
Best defense:Well before your departure (ideally at least a few months), do a little detective work to figure out which illnesses you might be exposed to during your travels and whether there are any preventative measures you ought to take. CDC.gov publishes a comprehensive list of travel notices called the Yellow Book; use it to see which infections are endemic to your destination and get a list of recommended vaccinations. "See your physician or a travel physician to find out if you're up-to-date on your vaccines or need to take a [preventative] medication," says Angarone.
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It's easy to skip a dose of your regular meds when you're operating outside of your routine. But with some drugs, even a slight aberration from the time you normally take them can be problematic. "That's most true for drugs that alter your immune function, like immunosuppressants," says Angarone.
Best defense:If you're on any regular medications that need to be taken at a certain time of day, consult your doctor about time changes before you leave. Meanwhile, always pack medications in your carry-on; you'll want to have them handy in case your flight is delayed or your checked luggage goes missing. (Just don't make these 3 medication mistakes that could cost you.)
Sure, vacations are meant to be relaxing—but how often do you find yourself working overtime, overexerting yourself, and staying up late to prep for a getaway?
The result, according to the Dutch psychologist Ad Vingerhoets, who looked at this phenomenon in a 2002 study , is a stress-induced state he calls "leisure sickness." His theory has to do with the "fight-or-flight" effect stress can have. While under stress, the body simultaneously releases adrenaline, which boosts the immune system, and cortisol, which suppresses it. (Be on the lookout for these 10 silent signals you're way too stressed.) Following a stressful period, cortisol remains in the bloodstream longer than adrenaline, which may leave your immune system temporarily weakened.
Vingerhoets' "leisure sickness" theory still remains to be proven, and many medical experts—including Angarone—are doubtful that stress actually makes your body more vulnerable to catching an infection in this manner. But Angarone acknowledges that stress is still a problem because it might make you lax about risk-prevention strategies that would otherwise protect you. If you're tired or not thinking straight, you might opt for that tap water or forget to wash your hands.
Best defense:There's no easy cure for stress, but planning vacations in advance and starting that "work crunch" early can help you avoid pile-up so you can enjoy a happy, and healthy, trip.
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