Tag: After

The Reason You Always Get Sick After Vacation

After a relaxing vacation, you’d think your body would be so rejuvenated that your immune system would be in tip-top shape. But it’s like clockwork: The second your plane lands back home, sniffles or body aches surface out of nowhere. How on earth can a week of sipping mojitos on the beach cause you to get sick when that’s the opposite of the point?


You’re not imagining that this is a common occurence. “I see patients that return from vacation sick quite often,” says pharmacist Inna Lukyanovsky. The CDC even has a special section of its website devoted to this phenomenon. Some people get sick before they even land at home, something so common that some doctors call it “leisure sickness.”

Whether you spend most of your vacation napping in a lavish hotel bed or walking miles through the streets of a new city, it’s certainly a change of pace from your life back home. That’s a lot for your system to adjust to, only for those changes to come to a grinding halt when you arrive back home again and jump right back into your usual routine.

Post-vacation illness is the ultimate letdown, but there are scientific reasons for it beyond the universe trying to make your transition back to the office grind as miserable as possible. Here’s the deal—and how to cope.

The Real Reasons You Get Sick

No, your body isn’t just doing this to torture you. Here’s why experts believe people get sick after vacation.

1. Planes (but Not for the Reason You Think)

Anyone with even mild germophobic tendencies cringes when boarding a plane. While it’s horrifying to imagine gross recycled air floating through the plane every time someone sneezes the next aisle over, that’s likely not the true cause of your health issues.

The real culprit behind most plane-related colds is the low humidity in flight. “Airplanes can be the worst,” pharmacist Lindsey Elmore says. “The low-humidity air can dry out nasal passages.” Thanks to the plane’s high altitude, you’re cruising through the sky in some seriously dry air. That dryness can irritate your throat and nose and can also make it tougher for your body to fend off bacteria.

The Fix: Over-the-counter saline nasal spray and some eye drops can go a long way to combating this issue.

2. The Usual Germy Suspects

It’s no surprise that the classic culprits, like being exposed to new allergens and germs, not washing your hands enough, and coming into contact with large crowds, can also make you sick on your travels. Airports, train stations, public transit, and tourist sites all put you in contact with big crowds, which can increase the likelihood of coming down with something.

“These days, with the ability to be in different hemispheres and continents so easily, transmissible diseases due to viruses and bacteria can easily spread to different regions quickly,” says Dana Hawkinson, M.D., assistant professor at the University of Kansas.

The Fix: The best thing to do is wash your hands regularly and for the right length of time (that’d be 20 seconds). You can also attempt to maintain some personal space in large crowds? Yeah, focus on the hand-washing.

3. Plain Old Exhaustion

The truth is, travel is freaking tiring. Even the most relaxing beach vacation in the world is fairly taxing to actually get to, especially if you’re the type who goes on a panicked frenzy to pack, complete your entire to-do list, and clean your house top-to-bottom the night before an early morning flight. (Raises hand.)

Before you even arrive at your destination, your body has likely already been subjected to several days of strain and exhaustion as you prepped for the trip, packed, and stuffed yourself into a tiny plane seat at an inhuman hour.

“Sleep deprivation is a major immune system depressant,” Inna says. “You often see people who spend sleepless nights on vacations or sleepless days when traveling for long hours.” This gets even more complicated when your vacation is in a different time zone. Jet lag is definitely not your immune system’s friend.

The Fix: Some effective time management can help you not freak out the night before a trip, and you can learn some ways to sleep better too.

4. Boozing It Up

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating on vacation—God invented swim-up bars for a reason! That said, the frustrating fact is that drinking more than you do during your non-vacay life can increase your likelihood of getting sick when you head home. “Excessive drinking during vacation can certainly inhibit your immune system and back up the detoxification system, leading to a virus or bacterial infections,” Lukyanovsky says.

The Fix: Consider spacing out your drinking with more low-key days in-between. If nothing else, stick to the old college trick of making sure you’re drinking a glass of seltzer or water for every glass of alcohol you drink. This will keep you hydrated (and help fend off hangovers).

5. Temperature Changes

Traveling between two different climates can confuse your body and make you more susceptible to illness. This is especially common if you jet off in the winter to lounge in a warmer destination.

“People traveling in the winter to a warmer climate often get sick coming back to cold weather,” Lukyanovsky says. “And the cold itself isn’t the reason; it’s the cold affecting the immune system response. That can trigger the virus that you normally would fight off without noticing.” In the moment, your body has bigger fish to fry—like readjusting to the cold—allowing viruses you’d normally fend off with no issue to creep in.

The Fix: OK, there really isn’t one for this, unless you want to start avoiding warm-weather destinations in winter (haha, no). But a little self-care won’t hurt…

Above All, Spoil Yourself

It’s not like you ever need someone else’s permission to treat yo’self, but remember that it’s extra important to coddle yourself when you get home from a trip. All of that flying and driving and time zone changing is a huge deal for your body. Whether you feel a cold coming on or arrive home feeling perfectly healthy, it doesn’t change the fact that your body needs to recalibrate.

If you can swing it, take a day off when you arrive home before heading back to work. On these days, give yourself permission to be a total couch potato. Laze around, do a relaxing exercise like yoga, and let your body adjust. Drink lots of water and eat fresh fruits and veggies. (Also pay attention to how you feel during this time. If you develop symptoms like persistent diarrhea, rashes, or a fever, check in with your doctor to rule out any pressing health issues that are linked to travel to certain regions.)

If you’re someone who struggles with letting yourself do nothing, remember that you’re doing this for your well-being! If you take the time to slow down, you’ll be a lot less likely to develop a surprise illness the second you dive back into your routine. The world keeps turning even when you sit still—promise. So kick up your feet, spend the day plotting your next vacation, and give yourself a high-five for putting your immune system first.

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How Candice Kumai Found Major Confidence After Some Serious Setbacks

Welcome to Behind the Confidence, a video series about the real, unfiltered journey to self-belief. We talked to four health and wellness pros who prove true confidence doesn’t stem from a “like,” nor does it magically happen overnight. It’s about finding what makes you feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Your confidence levels can go up and down depending on what’s going on in your life. Chef and wellness expert Candice Kumai knows this all too well. Her confidence plummeted during two of the toughest years of her career. “I think inevitably… you end up struggling one way or another, and sometimes you have to look back in life and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I got through that, and I came out a better person because of it,’” she says.

Better is an understatement: Kumai is at the top of her game. In this video, she talks about how important it is to pursue your passion and live a life full of chances and challenges—and how to remain confident through it all.

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A 30-Minute Yoga Flow That Aids Digestion After a Big Meal

Went HAM on the turkey this Thanksgiving? That’s what Turkey Day is for! But before you dig into the leftovers and cozy up on the couch, try this quick yoga flow to help with digestion.

The 30-minute routine focuses on core stability and core strength, as well as twists, which stimulate the digestive system and can help boost your metabolism. This will help your body process yesterday’s feast, as well as set you up for your next meal. Plus, the couch will feel that much better when you know that you’ve earned it. All you need is a yoga mat. Then press play to get started.

Looking for more short and effective at-home workouts? Grokker has thousands of routines, so you’ll never get bored. Bonus: For a limited time, Greatist readers get 40 percent off Grokker Premium (just $ 9 per month) and their first 14 days free. Sign up now!

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Life After GreatistYou: Catching Up With Our Contestants

Welcome to GreatistYou, a new social experiment where we see what happens when five people decide to change their health—and broadcast their journeys for everyone to see. Four goals, five contestants, and six weeks to crush said goals for the promise of a better life (oh, and $ 1,000!).

Can you believe it’s over? Watching our contestants get through six weeks of personal goal-crushing has been inspiring, fun, and informative. We’re proud of each and every one of them! Now it’s time for one final check-in to see how they’re doing.

  • Darby and Adrienne (@greatistdanda) are still feeling that sense of accomplishment that comes from running a six-plus-mile race like it’s nothin’ at all. They hope to keep up with their running routine, as well as all the other healthy habits they formed.
  • Brandon (@greatistbrandon) is trying to get back on track after a Panda Express run and a battle with his pants. Don’t let your pants tell you how to live, Brandon; show them who’s boss!
  • Jasmine (@greatistjasmine) is loving every minute of her post-Whole30 brunch. But she’s not straying too far from her new way of eating. Eggs and spinach over an English muffin is leaps and bounds better than, say, a big pile of syrup-soaked pancakes. Keep it up!
  • Regina (@greatistregina) is finally relaxing after beating people up last weekend. She’s long overdue for some rest, so we hope she spends the weekend chilling out with a Camelbak full of ice-cold white wine. Just kidding, you probably shouldn’t do that. Probably.


  • Our beloved mentor, Jessi (@greatistmentor), came by Greatist HQ to chat with us about the first season. Check out the video to get her take on the competition.

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