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De-stressing your vacation part 2: Avoiding travel related illness


July 16, 2012 | Published by


You’ve been planning your vacation for months. Finally, you step onto the sand, gaze across the waves and breathe in the fresh salty air—then erupt in a coughing fit. Travel can compromise your immune system. In fact, up to 20% of passengers may develop symptoms of a cold within a week after flying.1 Decreased air pressure, and the associated stress, can cause a transient increase in markers of inflammation and impaired immune regulation.One study even showed that changes in healthy people’s cellular immune system after a long distance flight were similar to changes seen in the immune systems of patients with stage 2 HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).3

Travel can also bring exposure—to new experiences and new cultures, yes—but also to illness. The arm rest you grab or the luggage you lift from the carousel may have just been touched by someone with cold or flu germs on their fingers, or you may have spent the last 5 hours of your life crammed into a compartment beside someone constantly coughing and sneezing.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to decrease your odds of bringing home something other than a t-shirt from your next vacation destination:

  1. Get enough rest. Sleep supports both the stress system and the immune system. Going into a trip rested and healthy increases your ability to withstand the stressors encountered along the way.
  2. Wash your hands frequently. This is still one of the best ways to prevent the spread of disease.
  3. Drink plenty of water. This keeps the mucus membranes in your nose and throat hydrated and able to resist bacteria and viruses.
  4. Eat healthy foods. Don’t use vacation as an excuse to eat sugary junk, which also impairs your immune system.
  5. Travel with immune support. Herbs like echinacea, oregano and thyme can aid an immune system under attack.
  6. Learn to roll with the punches. Travel invariably brings unknowns and surprises. By accepting these changes as part of the adventure rather than trying to control every detail, you keep your stress hormones—and the resulting immune changes—to a minimum.

Read part one to learn about jet lag and how to support your body through changing time zones.

Dr. Lise NaugleAbout the author: Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.



  1. Zitter JN, Mazonson PD, Miller DP, Hulley SB, Balmes JR. Aircraft cabin air recirculation and symptoms of the common cold. JAMA. 2002 Jul 24-31;288(4):483-6.
  2. Wilder-Smith A, Mustafa FB, Peng CM, Earnest A, Koh D, Lin G, Hossain I, MacAry PA. Transient immune impairment after a simulated long-haul flight. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2012 Apr;83(4):418-23.
  3. Rose DM, Jung D, Tamm W, Keth A, Loos AH. Changes in cellular proliferation rate of lymphocytes after long-distance flights as a possible risk for patients with HIV-infection. Eur J Med Res. 2000 Sep 18;5(9):411-4.

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