There’s a term for that cold you’re going to get when you take a few days off work this holiday season: leisure sickness. And, while there are no medical studies to confirm the phenomenon, a Dutch psychologist published findings in 2002 that 3% of 1,900 people polled did say they tended to get sick on weekends and vacations, Quartz reports. Professor Ad Vingerhoets of Tilburg University in the Netherlands previously told the Guardian that his own propensity for leisure sickness spurred him to conduct the study. His thoughts, and the reigning theory, hold that all the work stress leading up to a break compromises the immune system, and then once you're finally able to rest, all that stress catches up with you. But, as Quartz points out, becoming ill on vacation likely has more to do with traveling than with taking time off work.
“Whether influenza, the common cold, or other viruses, it’s really quite clear that mass transportation contributes to transmission,” William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, tells Quartz. In our daily lives, we build up antibodies to fight the germs around us, but at an airport, we're exposed to new viruses from around the globe. Worse, many viruses spread more easily in crowded places like airports, and the relatively low humidity inside airplane cabins also help them to spread. There's also the fact that "people [probably] remember illnesses during vacations better than those that occur during more regular work schedules," one psychology professor points out. The best way to avoid getting sick this holiday season, Schaffner says: Get a flu shot. (This study predicts how often adults and kids will get the flu.)