Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Fri September 16 2016

Why We Get Sick When We Travel

Features & Advice | Janeen Christoff | September 16, 2016

Why We Get Sick When We Travel

Photo courtesy Thinkstock

Why is it so hard to stay well while on the road? Travel, sleep loss and stress all weaken the immune system — and when you come in contact with germs, you are more susceptible to feeling their evil, sniffly, sore throat side effects. 

The effects of long-term travel — especially for work — were particularly prominent in the news over the last week when democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton fell ill at a ceremony honoring victims of Sept. 11 in New York City. But Clinton wasn’t the only member of her entourage who had fallen ill. Many campaign staff were feeling weary after months flitting from one city to the next taking their message to voters. 

“I would imagine that being chronically sleep deprived and overworked and stressed would lower anyone’s resistance to infection,” Christopher Sanford, an associate professor of family medicine and global health at the University of Washington told Popular Science, which looked into what makes people sick when they travel. 

“Travel in general may expose people to all kinds of conditions that could make them more susceptible to illness, whether or not they’re running for president of the United States,” Popular Science reports. 

In fact, when you travel, you open yourself up to a host of infectious agents. 

“The things that put you at risk for infections are things that do one of two things,” said Catherine Forest, a family medicine doctor at Stanford Health Care, in Popular Science. “They either increase your exposure to viruses and bacteria or parasites, or they increase your susceptibility to those things.”

Exposing yourself to more people is ultimately what gets you when you travel. 

  READ MORE: Discover What's Hiding In Your Hotel Room  

“Folks who go through jets and airports do have a little higher risk of infectious things, including head colds and influenza, and the reason is just exposure to more people,” Sanford told Popular Science. “Just as people who work at daycares get head colds more often, people who go through crowds get coughed on more and are at slightly higher risk.”

So if you are feeling a little sniffly after your last trip, now you know why. Learn more about how travel factors into sickness and ways to prevent it here


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