Why You May Have Flu-like Symptoms After Traveling

Cold & Flu

Jan 20, 2022


If you’ve ever felt sick right after returning from a vacation, you may be wondering why you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms after traveling. Is it normal to get a cold after traveling? For a lot of individuals, travel can be an exhausting experience and can take a toll on the body. Whether you’re taking a road trip or flying on a plane to your destination, it is common for travelers to return home feeling sick after traveling for a period of time. Many patients are curious as to why this happens, and we are here to explain.

If you have returned home from a vacation with more than just a souvenir, here are common explanations for why you may feel flu-like symptoms after traveling. For tips and tricks on how to keep from getting sick while traveling, visit our blog.

Weakened immune system

We typically take vacations as a way for our bodies to relax and our immune system to rejuvenate itself. So how can a weekend getaway leave us feeling ill? As we mentioned earlier, traveling can be exhausting. You may be staying up later, drinking more alcohol, or eating increased quantities of food. You may even be doing more or less physical activity than you normally do at home! These changes, especially sleep deprivation and alcohol consumption, can lead to a weakened immune system that can cause you to have flu-like symptoms after traveling. 

Temperature changes

Traveling between different climates can confuse our bodies and make us more susceptible to illnesses because our immune systems aren’t sure how to react. Your body has to readjust to the new temperature before it can fight off any symptoms coming your way, allowing you to feel sick much faster. This can be combated with regulating your body temperature and, if necessary, some over-the-counter cold/flu medication.

Leisure sickness

This post-vacation fatigue can also be known as leisure sickness, a psychological effect where those who do not take time to relax regularly often fall ill on vacations or weekends. Leisure sickness, though not recognized by all psychologists, has similar symptoms to the flu including body aches, headaches, and fatigue. The best ways to combat these symptoms are very similar to our tips for staying healthy during flu season: keep an adequate sleep schedule, limit your alcohol intake, and practice healthy habits including exercise and handwashing.

Low humidity on airplanes

Airplanes can be a germaphobe’s worst nightmare. Being cramped next to strangers who may have brought a sickness aboard along with their carry-on bag can have you feeling gross after the flight. However, that’s likely not the reason you feel sick after traveling –– it’s generally due to the lack of humidity on the plane.

Low humidity can cause the nasal passages to dry out and cause irritation in the nose and throat. On top of that, bacteria and viruses can survive longer in low-humidity environments, making it harder for your body to fight off any infections you might catch aboard a plane. If you are traveling by plane, be sure to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. If necessary, wear a face-covering during your flight to keep others’ germs at bay.

Lack of hygiene and handwashing 

When you’re traveling, it’s likely you’ll come into contact with many different people, areas, and surfaces. As we mentioned earlier, your immune system may already be weakened from the effects of traveling, making you more susceptible to bacteria and viruses. If you do not take the proper precautions to wash your hands regularly, you can be exposing yourself to other peoples’ germs. If possible, bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you wherever you go and practice basic handwashing techniques as regularly as you can.

What to do if you feel sick after traveling

If you have returned home and are experiencing flu-like symptoms after traveling, follow these at-home remedies for how to care for yourself with the flu. It’s likely that your body will readjust within the next few days with a little TLC (tender, love, and care). Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take it easy until you feel better.

However, if you notice these symptoms are either persisting or worsening, it would be a good idea to seek medical attention. For example, if you’re experiencing flu symptoms with severe stomach pain or feel you need an emergency IV for dehydration, head to the nearest emergency room for treatment. In the event that you have caught an illness, the medical staff will be able to care for you in a prompt manner.

Experiencing flu-like symptoms after traveling? Complete Care is here to help.

Feeling sick after traveling can be a frustrating feeling, but try to remember that it’s normal to feel this way. Travel, even when done in the most cautious manner, can still be exhausting on the body. If you do find yourself in need of medical attention, the staff at Complete Care is here to help you feel better in no time. With low wait times and hospital-quality care, those flu-like symptoms after traveling will be a thing of the past.

With many ER locations all across Texas (including the Dallas/Fort Worth area) and Colorado, we are here in your time of need. We are open 24/7 for you and your family.

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