Why do we get sick on holiday? A GP explains why taking a break & de-stressing makes us feel ill




Strong Women

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Why do we get sick when we take a well-deserved rest? It might be down to our chronic stress levels. 

You don’t expect to be sniffling in 35°C heat, but that was how I found myself on holiday in blisteringly sunny Seville. My sinuses were blocked to the point of pain, my eyes were leaking and just one sangria rendered me desperate for a nap (much to the shame of my friend and travel companion).

It happens every year – I manage to go, go, go and then when I finally stop, it’s as though my entire immune system unravels and floors me. More often than not, my breaks involve at least one day spent feeling run down.



When I complain about it to my friends, they nod along with similar stories of sickness or illness during their longed-for holidays. But why is it so common to feel unwell during the one time we’re actually looking after ourselves? Is it an imagined illness, is something up with our immune systems or is it totally normal?

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“There’s quite a lot of evidence that people feel unwell when they take a break from their usual lives,” says GP Dr Sarah Jarvis. “Interestingly, there’s a very well known phenomenon of ‘weekend migraines’, where people suffer from severe migraines on their days off, rather than the days they’re on.”

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