Are you prone to ‘leisure sickness’?

Woman sneezing. Photo: David Jones/PA Wire
Woman sneezing. Photo: David Jones/PA Wire

It wasn’t the cough that carried her off … it was the coffin they carried her off in.

Our office has resembled a doctor’s waiting room over the past few weeks and been awash with germs as staff have coughed, spluttered and sniffled while battling the season’s sickliness.

Aasma Day

Aasma Day

Top of the coughing culprits has been yours truly as I seem to have been afflicted with a horrible hacking type cough for about six weeks.

But, like the majority of my colleagues, I have soldiered on and managed to just about stop illness taking a real grip of me without having to take any time off work to recover.

I am rarely ill, so when I do become poorly it makes me very grumpy and I try to fight through it and convince myself that, as long as I keep going, I won’t succumb to it. My own “favourite” time to succumb is the period between Christmas and New Year.

True to form, during the recent festivities, my constant coughing and chestiness culminated in my immune system becoming so low, I ended up with a kidney infection resulting in a Christmas Day visit to an out-of-hours doctor for antibiotics.

And I wasn’t the only one as, after chatting to friends and colleagues, others have reported similar experiences.

One friend was delirious with happiness to book the whole of Christmas week off work for the first time … only to spend the entire week delirious in bed with the flu.

So common is this circumstance of people getting ill as soon as they stop work, scientists have even coined a phrase for it: “leisure sickness.”

One theory is that during our daily grind, our body is constantly producing stress hormones such as adrenaline which help ward off infection.

But once we relax, these levels stop and make us susceptible to illness.

Leisure sickness usually affects people in pressurised jobs as their immune system is stimulated by the pressure and when they have deadlines, their body knows they can’t get ill.

However, when you take a break, it’s like a fuse telling your body it can switch off and “get sick now”.

Getting off the treadmill of life makes us give in to illness as we finally wind down.

Being sick and feeling a wreck is definitely no fun.

It’s almost enough to make you want to stay at work.