You’ve just enjoyed relaxing on a sandy beach, enjoying your favorite mountain view or enjoying the nightlife in some exotic city. But now you’re home and instead of being rested and ready to get back to work, you’re feeling ill. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.
Air on the Plane
You’ve probably heard the commonly held belief that recycled air on planes circulates germs and causes people to get sick. In reality, this is not the most likely cause floating around at cruising altitude.
The real issue has more to do with what’s not in the air — specifically, moisture. The humidity on the plane typically falls around 10-20 percent. The air you’re used to breathing is probably more like 40-60 percent.
The dry air in a plane can cause your nasal passages to dry out, leading to irritation. The longer you’re in the air, the more irritation can build up. If you wear contacts, this can cause irritation in the eyes as well. Not only that, you can become dehydrated on a long plane ride if you’re not drinking enough water.
Most people cut loose a bit while on vacation. Whether you’re spending time at the swim-up bar or just enjoying a few extra drinks with dinner each night, it’s likely more than your system is used to. Over the course of your vacation, this can add up.
Drinking more alcohol than you’re used to can lead to dehydration, lower your immune system, cause bloating and digestive upset, and of course, can cause hangovers. By the time you get home, this can leave you feeling rather poorly.
At home, your system is used to a certain set of allergens. These could be pollens from plantlife, dander from animals, bugs that bite or sting, common foods, or any number of other problems. You’re likely familiar with the allergens in your daily surroundings and know how they will affect you.
When you travel, all of this changes. You may encounter pollens you’ve never been exposed to before, animal habitats you don’t normally see, and foods you’ve never tried before. Since you don’t know if these new exposures could cause allergic reactions, it’s hard to be prepared!
Allergen exposures can leave you with symptoms that you might not recognize if you’ve never had them before. Fortunately, most allergy symptoms will resolve quickly after the exposure is eliminated, but if you’ve brought home pollens or other contaminants, a thorough cleaning will be needed.
When you go on vacation, you may be escaping the cold and damp at home and heading to a sunny locale. Or you may be getting away from the sweltering heat of your hometown and enjoying the cooler temps of a mountain retreat. Traveling is a fantastic way to escape unpleasant weather conditions. But this sudden change in climate can confuse your body and lead to illness.
Typically, your immune system gets used to changes in weather over a long period of time. We don’t go from the warm summer months straight to the cold of winter — we get to acclimatize ourselves in the autumn. But when you come home from a tropical getaway only to encounter snow and ice, your system hasn’t had time to adjust. This can throw your immune system for a loop, leaving you far more susceptible to illnesses you’d usually fight off without noticing.
Some vacation destinations are well-known for the gastro upset they can cause. You’ve probably heard of Delhi Belly or been told not to drink the water in some foreign countries. But did you know that you can wind up with an upset stomach in just about any travel hotspot?
Like many causes on this list, the problem is not necessarily what’s in the food, though that can be an issue too. Food poisoning can happen just about anywhere and at any time. More often, the issue lies in unfamiliarity and excess. On vacation, you may be trying foods you normally wouldn’t eat. Or you may be eating too much — after all those cruise ship buffets are very tempting!
Unfamiliar spices, too much chocolate cake, or sampling a range of new delicacies you’ve never encountered before can all cause stomach upset. And if you’re not sure whether you’ve picked up a parasite or just had too much curry paste, it can be a scary situation indeed.
Much like allergies, the germs in a foreign locale can be completely different from what we typically encounter at home. Travel also often means crowds, whether at the airport, on public transit, or in busy tourist destinations. The more time you spend in close contact with large groups, the more likely you are to encounter new and novel strains of illness.
Your immune system likely knows how to deal with the most common germs you encounter on a daily basis, but may not be able to combat these new bugs. When you encounter viruses and bacteria that your system can’t fight off, it may take a few days for you to begin to feel sick. By the time you arrive home from your exotic tour, the illness could be in full swing and making you miserable.
If you don’t typically spend a great deal of time out in the sun, you may not be prepared for a week or two basking in its rays. We all know about sunburns and the need for sunscreen, but if you’ve forgotten your SPF, you could wind up with a sunburn so bad it causes flu-like symptoms. This is called sun poisoning and it can cause nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and other unpleasant symptoms.
But even if you’ve protected yourself from the harms of UV exposure, you may still get sick from being in the sun too long. Prolonged exposure to the warmth of the sun can lead to dehydration and heat exhaustion. If you live in a cooler climate, you may not realize you’re not getting enough hydration until it’s too late and the damage is done.
Let’s face it, travel can be exhausting. Jet lag, not keeping to your usual sleep schedule, and busy days packed with sightseeing and adventure can all take their toll. You may even find yourself needing a vacation from your vacation.
Even worse, when you don’t get enough sleep or your body is tired, your immune system can’t operate at its full capacity. This can mean all of the other problems above are more likely to affect your health, even after you’ve returned home and resumed your normal routines.
Tips for a Quick Recovery
So what do you do when you’ve just returned from your dream vacation only to encounter nightmare symptoms? While many of these issues will resolve themselves given a little time and self-care, others can be serious. If you’re not sure if your illness merits a trip to the emergency room, it’s best to get advice from qualified medical professionals.
But the last thing you want to do is take another day off from work to drive to the clinic or spend your free time sitting in a crowded waiting room. Instead, why not call in the experts from DispatchHealth? They’ll gladly meet you at your home or office so you don’t have to take more time away from your busy schedule.
Not sure if DispatchHealth can handle what’s bugging you? They can treat everything from simple symptoms to complex problems like pneumonia, skin infections, and even severe dehydration. Give them a call and they’ll let you know if you should head to your local ER or just stay put and get medical care at home.