Always Falling Sick While Overseas? There’s A Scientific Explanation

Yes! Your holiday is FINALLY just a week away…

falling sick

All that’s left to do is tie up loose ends at work, arrange for the pet-sitter, clear out the kitchen, get ready your travel essentials, and… Oh dear, there’s actually an awful lot to get done before travelling!

Even if you don’t realize it, the week just before you fly is typically a very stressful period for many travellers. There’s usually lots of work to complete and a ton of errands of run. But somehow, you always tide through the storm, and make it for your much anticipated vacay.

… And then you fall sick.


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If you’re always falling sick while on holiday, you’re not alone. (And you’re not imagining it!)

falling sick

This pattern of falling sick at the start of your holiday is known as the letdown effect. It is a post-stress illness that is caused by a concentrated period of stress, followed by a sudden relief of stress. The syndrome is not exclusive to travellers, and can affect anyone who just survived a period of immense stress. It’s just that for many people, this happens before each trip, which is why they may notice that they always fall a little ill when it’s holiday time.

The Science behind the Syndrome

Our bodies respond to stress by releasing hormones to help us ‘fight the war’. This includes adrenaline, which boosts the immune system, and cortisol, which reduces inflammation. So during your week of deadlines and crazy schedules, your body turns you into a superhuman so you can do what you need to. But what happens after?

Well, your body takes a break too.

When stress dissipates, your immune system is left vulnerable. Defense mechanisms calm down, and they don’t just go back to normal. Many times, you are suppressed.This means you’re extra susceptible to infections and viruses, which is why you literally fall sick. In fact, cortisol (which was released during the stressful time) can reactivate latent infections and show symptoms of the illnesses when you start to relax.

The letdown effect is not limited to flus and colds, either. It can trigger asthma flare-ups, as well as autoimmune diseases (like lupus and Crohn’s), and digestive and skin conditions.


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But don’t lose hope! Here’s how to counter it.

falling sick

The root cause of all this health drama is actually stress. Preempt the stress, and pace yourself to cope with it. Adjust your schedule and start running errands weeks in advance. Don’t cram everything into the last few days before your flight. You can also plan some time for consistent exercise and rest.

If you’re already stressed and your flight is a few sleeps away, help your body de-stress. Studies show giving your mind and body a short workout can achieve this. For physical stimulation, have five to six minutes of moderate exercise daily. For your mental health, pick up a crossword puzzle or solve some math problems to get the juices going. Keep at it for three days and your body should be good to go.

Did this help you? Let us know in the comments below!

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