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Feel sick after a vacation? Here's why and how to avoid it

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Posted at 3:24 PM, Apr 17, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-17 18:13:02-04

In today’s Health Alert, summer is on the horizon, and vacation plans are underway. But these highly anticipated trips can come with unexpected setbacks — people can end up sick after returning home.

It's not uncommon to experience cold or flu-like symptoms after traveling. These illnesses are often mild viral infections that can happen for many different reasons.

A lot of it boils down to the exposure travelers encounter and the activities they engage in while away from home. We’re all aware that viruses and bacteria spread easily in close quarters, so airports, planes, buses, and trains are breeding grounds for germs.

The same goes for crowded venues like sporting events, concerts, museums, and many popular tourist spots. These places present opportunities for infection simply because it's hard to avoid crowds and confined spaces. Additionally, surfaces like passenger seats, door handles, and commonly touched areas are not regularly cleaned, which increases the risk of germ transmission.

On top of that, travel can be quite disruptive. You might not sleep as well in your new environment or stay up too late. There’s also a tendency to drink more alcohol and overindulge in foods that are packed with sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. Plus, prolonged sitting, like on a beach all day or the opposite where you’re constantly on the go, can also impact our bodies. Even traveling between different climates can take a toll. All of these factors can weaken our immune systems, making us more prone to getting sick.

What's the best way to avoid getting sick after your vacation?

To help you avoid post-vacation illness, here’s my advice…

  1. Always practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.
  2. Carry microbial wipes. Use them to wipe down high-touch surfaces like seats, armrests, and trays.
  3. Stay hydrated. Drink enough water to prevent headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and dehydration.
  4. Eat healthy meals. Include colorful fruits and vegetables and pack nutritious snacks like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and protein bars.
  5. Try to avoid visibly sick people. Even those with minimal symptoms can infect you.
  6. Get enough rest. Pace yourself during your travels to avoid exhaustion, and take time to decompress and recuperate when you return home.

Following these tips can help keep your immune system healthy and strong. It’s also important for people with allergies to remember that symptoms can also be triggered by pollen and new environments rather than illness.
If you end up with mild symptoms after returning home, they will likely resolve on their own. But if you develop fever, chest pain or have trouble breathing, see your doctor or go to the Emergency Room.