Why we get sick when we switch off 28



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It’s the cruellest of ironies – just as we are about to go on a holiday, we get sick. There’s nothing more frustrating and upsetting than looking forward to your well-deserved break and you suddenly fall ill. Or worse, when you’re on your holiday, your struck down with an illness and are far from the comfort of your own home. But why does this always seem to happen just when we don’t want it to?

Known officially as leisure sickness, it’s an affliction that comes to those of us whose body is shocked by the sudden experience of doing nothing! And it may not have to be a big holiday that triggers it, you could be going on a weekend away and suddenly you have headaches, muscle pain, fatigue, the flu, or a fever.

According to research, the busyness of our everyday lives can distract us from what’s going on in our body – we could be ignoring the symptoms, so it’s kind of like out of sight out of mind. But when we focus on not getting sick or are wanting to stay healthy, we almost make ourselves worried and stressed, in turn causing a reaction from our body.

Scholars from Tilburg University believe that our main stressors in life (family, work, partner) may not feel like they affect us until we take a break.

So with all this said, how can we make sure that we don’t get leisure sickness? Is it really avoidable if it’s something that we are deliberately bringing upon ourselves? Researchers suggest exercising more to keep fit and stave off illness, as well as getting plenty of sleep. Cutting down on alcohol and coffee may also help.

Surprisingly, researchers also suggested that we see our friends and family more during the week so that we aren’t looking forward to seeing them as much, and therefore being extremely let down when we inevitably get sick. They also believe that cutting down work slowing instead of going straight into holiday-mode can avoid a shock.


Have you ever been sick just before a big trip? Or have you been ill during the holiday? What happened and why do you think it occurred? Tell us below.

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  1. This used to happen to me when I was a child, ruined quite a few family holidays even ending up in hospital, and I was so looking forward to our camping holidays.

  2. Happened to me only last night after a great day wandering around Melbourne with my daughter and grandson! I always seem to come down with a cold/sore throat when I’m on holidays. Last time I had one was back in June while we were in Alaska. Would like to experience one holiday without getting sick!

  3. Think I built up an immunity after 40 years in classrooms with sniffling kids…rarely get sick.

    1 REPLY
    • After 36 years in a classroom Janet, I ended up with chronic fatigue and a crappy immune system.
      I had a bacterial infection and a viral infection.
      Eveytime I tried to take time off work to recover I was made to feel guilty about leaving them with a Rekiel teacher.
      Eventually I went home to bed after a long parent-teacher interview night, and couldn’t gdet out of it.

      I was totally and utterly exhausted – so much I didn’t even have the strength to sit in a chair or lift a 1 litre bottle of detergent.

      I was off work for 6 months.

      I ended up having to retire early, after ‘soldiering on” for another 10 years.

      Now Ipick up every bug going around and have the dickens of a time getting rid of it.

      My only defence has been to listen to my body, and to lie down and shut up till the infection goes away.

      1 REPLY
  4. I work hard all year then when I get holidays I feel drained and washed out for first few days of holidays. Think the rest of the year I run in adrenalin then I wind down.

  5. Yes- it’s happened again! Last year I was so sick on my birthday, and on Saturday I got a sore throat which has turned into an asthma like chest infection, sweats etc. Though I don’t have asthma I’m wheezing like crazy and now on prednisone and ventolin. I can’t say I’ve slowed down as I’m retired and should not be stressed at all. I hope it all goes away by Thursday, but if not I’m determined to enjoy it anyway!

    1 REPLY
    • I have the same sore throat and bronchitis like symptoms it stress related for me happens every time

  6. just finished work for the year and have had THE worst sore throat and cold of the season!!! Get thee gone for Christmas!!!!

  7. All my life I’d get a cold once a year but now it lasts a couple of weeks sometimes it can trickle into three weeks but I’ve never had the flu,touch wood never had to take antibiotics,so I’m extremely lucky.

  8. Just got home from a wonderful cruise, hubby picked up some sort of flu on the last day and has given it to me. Now we are both barking, sweating and have muscle aches and pains. Glad I got a script for antibiotics before we went away as no Drs. Appointments til the new year. Merry Christmas everyone, hope yours is healthy!

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