Flu and cold symptoms have a knack for developing just when you want to enjoy your Christmas break.
But why do we always seem to get ill when we down tools and put the ‘out of office’ on?
It’s called ‘leisure sickness’ and scientists believe it affects some people more than others.
A Dutch psychologist, called Ad Vingerhoets, believes that there are real reasons why people fall ill when they slow down.
He conducted a study of 1,128 men and 765 women from Holland between the ages of 16 and 87, and concluded that three per cent of people suffer from ‘leisure sickness’ during holidays and weekends.
They tend to experience flu-like symptoms and colds, as well as headaches, migraine, fatigue, muscular pains and nausea.
He suggested to The Guardian that it may be because people – who may be ill all along – become aware of their symptoms when they have little else to distract them.
“One possibility is a kind of competition for symptom perception,” he said.
“There is a competition between information from the outside world, external information, and information from the body, internal information.
“If you are very busy with external information, then information from your body might be repressed by it.
“If you are in a boring environment, it is more easy to recognise those signals from your body. When you are in a stimulating environment, you don’t attend to those signals.”
Another theory is that when we relax, our stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, fall out of balance and this leaves us at risk of infections.
During periods of work, our stress hormones help us cope with pressure and keep us well, but they may fall out of sync during holiday time and this could correlate with illness.
There is another reasons, according to experts, why we may fall ill during the festive period in particular.
“The problem around Christmas time is that the weather is cold and wet and the days are shorter,’ said Dr Dan Robertson, Medical Officer at Push Doctor, to Elle UK.
“This forces people to congregate indoors, while they’re also more likely to use public transport rather than walking.
“This provides cold and flu viruses with much better opportunities to spread between people.”
The theory fits with another of Vingerhoets’s suggestions that being in an enclosed space – like on an aircraft – and humidity, are perfect conditions for a cold.