FUN WRECKER: Sick of the holiday bug cutting into your fun time off?
FUN WRECKER: Sick of the holiday bug cutting into your fun time off? Andrey IURLOV

Why you get sick on the first day of your holidays

THERE'S not much worse than packing for your next holiday, finishing work and being hit by a wall of sickness to start off your hard-earned break.

So why does it happen?

One would think a holiday looming large on your calendar might be cause for a cure of any ailments.

Some fun in the sun or snow enough to boost anyone's health along with their spirits.

But it's not the case.

Sunshine Coast Private Hospital at Buderim's director of psychiatry Doctor Paul Cadzow said there was no hard, scientific link between holidays and illness but he said it was widely acknowledged that many people often fell ill at the beginning of a break.

So why does it happen?

The medical reason is usually the impact of high levels of stress hormone Cortisol in the body.

In the days leading up to a holiday stress levels can often peak as you try to finish off work, organise the holiday and of course the last-minute packing.


LOOKS GOOD: Doesn't it suck when you're bed-ridden and everyone else hits the pool?
LOOKS GOOD: Doesn't it suck when you're bed-ridden and everyone else hits the pool?

That stress leads to higher cortisol levels in the body, reducing the strength of your immune system and leading to illness.

"Cortisol does a lot of the health damage," Dr Cadzow said.

Also common is the scenario where you've been sick for quite some time but have soldiered on, not noticing you were off colour.

The change of pace can often be enough for the realisation and sickness to hit.

Flying in an enclosed space with cold, dry air is also a recipe for colds and flus to strike but for those illnesses that strike for the first day or two of a holiday, well that's usually more the result of fatigue or exhaustion rather than a bug or flu.

So what makes you feel better? Is it the holiday itself, the afterglow or the excitement beforehand?

Dr Cadzow said the actual holiday was beneficial, but not the most beneficial.

It's the excited anticipation beforehand and the post-holiday reminiscing that has the most benefits.

"The holiday itself can be quite stressful," Dr Cadzow said.

Dr Cadzow said the warning signs you were headed for a holiday headache included a feeling of being overwhelmed, stress, sleeping troubles and over-reactions.

So is bigger better when it comes to taking a break?

Dr Cadzow said it was a bit of a myth that you need three weeks to really switch off. He said shorter, more frequent breaks were just as effective at maintaining equilibrium.

His view was echoed by Golden Beach-based mindset and performance coach Mandy Napier.

She said regular breaks throughout the year were the best way to maintain energy levels and ensure you had the work-life balance in order.

The owner of Mindset for Success said a few pre-holiday routines could help reduce stress, including bringing deadlines forward for work and packing by about a fortnight to ensure you're well-prepared.

She also said the end of a holiday was a crucial time to be kind to yourself and acknowledge it may take a few days to find your groove in the workplace again.

On the flip side, you can always just try and stay completely stressed out on your holiday to ensure you don't have time to notice your sickness.

We've hatched a few way to do that:

  • 1. Travel with small children: Nothing screams I'm not getting any rest than taking a tribe of youngsters on holiday with you. Preferably they're your own, but extended family will work too. Early wake ups, tantrums and a lack of toilet training are the perfect combos to ensuring you don't get a moment to yourself.
  • 2. Feed said children with all the sugar you can find: It's holidays, so spoil them. Then watch chaos unfold.
  • 3. Don't book anything until the night before: It's a sure-fire way to ensure no rest in the build up and plenty of stress for at least the first week.
  • 4. Plan a significant life event on the holiday: Propose, get divorced, marry, fake your own death. There's heaps of options that will have you fretting over whether you've covered every angle. No time for sickness when you're thinking about that is there!

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