Do you always get ill on holiday?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Have you ever looked forward to a well-earned break, only to feel run down and ill soon after you get there? Here's a closer look at one likely culprit along with a handy guide to common holiday illnesses and how to avoid them.

Ever heard of leisure sickness?

No? Neither had we, but after stumbling across an article about it, we were intrigued. It seems that the experience of getting ill as soon as you relax is a bona fide medical condition called leisure sickness, formally identified by a Dutch psychologist back in 2001.

When de-stressing brings on distress

Leisure sickness is more likely to affect you if you lead a busy life and are constantly stressed (although you might not even realise it) and rarely ill.

You might recognise this scenario: you've been on the go for a while, then you take time off and almost immediately begin to feel unwell. The symptoms are often cold or flu-like and include headaches, migraine, nausea and muscular pain. 

What's actually happening here is that when you're really busy, stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol kick in and keep you going, partly by suppressing your immune system.

As soon as you relax, those hormone levels drop and you notice all the physical symptoms they have successfully been masking. As a result, your body 'crashes', forcing you to have the relaxation and sleep that you need while it repairs itself.

It's not the only culprit

Thankfully, the symptoms of leisure sickness will ease off after a day or two of R&R, and the same applies to many of the illnesses that commonly affect us when we go on holiday - colds caught on the aeroplane or stomach upsets caused by eating different foods, for example.

Even so, it can be a little unsettling to be ill when you're away from home and to help you avoid this, we've created a handy visual guide to some of the common afflictions that can strike when you're away and how to evade them.

If you do fall ill, it's reassuring to know that if you're a Foresters member, you have access to our free GP consultation service 24/7 - even when you're abroad. So if illness strikes and you need reassurance, diagnosis or a GP's advice, you know it's just a phone call away.

It's a handy benefit, especially as ABTA research shows that one in five UK travellers have had to visit a doctor or hospital abroad1.


1. ABTA (The Travel Association) 2013.

Download and print a PDF of our Be Well Away Guide

Be Well Away

Download and print a PDF of our Be Well Away Guide

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