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Cold and Flu

Stress and the Immune System

12/18/2008

Question:

Maybe I need to be in the mental health issues, as I must be nuts! I am a 51 year old female workaholic. I push myself contantly and seem to thrive. I have chronic health issues that cause constant pain, but I have always pushed through it and never let it stop me from giving 120% at work. My question is, why is that every single time I take some time off for a vacation, even if I just stay at home and don`t go anywhere exotic or am not exposed to more people, I end up getting sick with usually a cold or flu symptoms? I never take off sick days and work through everything, but the minute I back off, relax and try to rest up, I get sick. Is it because I`ve let me defenses down and function better under stress or am I just looney tunes? This has ruined every vacation I have taken in many, many years, and I end up going back to work even more tired and run down than I was before. Please help!!! I am so frustrated as I took this week off after months of overtime and the second day off I came down with a bad chest cold. Have you ever heard of this before and do I need to take my next vacation in the Psych Ward?? Any info would be appreciated greatly. It has happened too many times to be coincidences! HELP! Thanks,

Answer:

First of all, let me reassure you, that you are not "looney tunes." Stress is directly related to the strength of our immune system, which helps us fight off common infections. It is not at all unusual for our immunity to drop AFTER a stressful time, not necessarily in the midst of stress (although that can also happen.) The stressful time takes its toll on your body and your health, and when the stress diminishes, the body suffers for the earlier punishment. Ways to prevent these frequent infections include ways to cope and deal with stress. This means good, consistent nutrition, drinking plenty of water and healthy juices, getting a sufficient amount of sleep each day, getting regular aerobic exercise, and having social, emotional and spiritual support. Illnesses, especially infectious ones like colds and flus also don`t just occur without a virus or other germ to infect you. Regular, thorough and consistent hand washing has been shown to be the most effective way to decrease the transmission of these common germs. Remember to add that to your stress reduction regimen. Good luck.

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Response by:

Nancy   Elder, MD Nancy Elder, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati