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Why does Florida make me sick?
January 3, 2006 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I seem to catch a cold every time I travel to Florida. Why?

For the past several years I've gone from New York City to the east coast of Florida over Christmas and New Year's, and every year, I've gotten a cold of some sort. (This year I have a sore throat and moderate congestion.)

In addition to the aggravation, I find this kind of fascinating. What is it about the travel that gets me? I'm inclined to think the weather shift is the main cause, but I made similar trips in March and in late November, when Florida was still warmer than New York, and didn't catch anything. It could also be the destination, but I'd imagine issues with pillows, air, etc. to be more allergy- than common-cold-oriented.

I'm probably taking the same trip next December, so insight on a) why this happens and b) how to avoid it in '06 are both appreciated.
posted by werty to Health & Fitness (13 answers total)
Do you fly on an airplane? That's probably it. Recycled air, lots of people crammed in a small space during a time of year when people are generally exhausted = sickness. I was sitting next to a couple on the plane back from FL to NYC on Saturday who were both very sick- I heard them explaining on their cellphone, "Why should we be sick in FL when we can be sick at home? So we're flying back today!" Thanks, guys, the rest of us appreciate it.

I recommend Airborne; it both kept me from getting too sick earlier in the month, and helped me get better for my mini-cold much faster.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:05 AM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Did you fly? Mucus in your nostrils dries out on the plane due to low humidity and lack of oxygen in the recycled air, leaving your nose dry and unable to catch airborne infections before they enter your system. Of course, you are also in close proximity to 200 other people. This is why people put vaseline up their nostrils when travelling by air, or so I hear.
posted by fire&wings at 8:06 AM on January 3, 2006

Airplane cabin air filters generally have HEPA filters and they tend to catch most of the bacteria being recycled in the air, so it's not entirely the re-circulated air. It's more the fact that you're just in a smallish area for a long amount of time with sneezing, wheezing, snorting people getting their concentrated cooties directly in/on you for hours at a time.
posted by jerseygirl at 8:10 AM on January 3, 2006

I'd be suspicious about Airborne for at least two reasons: 1) "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease." (From their website and packaging.); 2) It was invented by a second grade teacher. If you're among the target audience for whom that is actually a selling point, then you are probably also very susceptible to superstitious learning.
posted by found missing at 8:26 AM on January 3, 2006

All I know is that it worked for me, found missing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 AM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ready for more "suspicious" ingestibles? Perhaps bolster your immune system on a deeper level prior to air travel. Or, Paul Stamet's Stamets 7 tincture is great. I travel on airplanes quite frequently for work and they seem to keep the cooties at bay.
posted by pranalaxmi at 8:52 AM on January 3, 2006

The Airborne contains high doses of vitamin c and riboflavin, which if you're not getting enough of will help.

I would also not discount the possibility that you're exposed to a different environment, with different airborne organisms your body is not exposed to. Similar, but not as pronounced, as when you go over seas and get very sick.
posted by geoff. at 9:05 AM on January 3, 2006

Perhaps you are experiencing allergies or other respiratory symptoms that you are mistaking for a cold. Or perhaps Florida's warm climate is more friendly to germs. Some good stuff from Cecil Adams (via this thread):
If anything, long stretches of cold temps mean you'll catch fewer colds, presumably because the germs die off. People who "winter over" at Antarctic research stations seldom get colds except when they host germ-laden visitors from warmer climes. [...]

Cold stress symptoms can last several days but eventually go away by themselves; so do most respiratory infections. Since most doctors don't send out for tests, there's no telling what the real problem was.
ThePinkSuperhero: If someone suggests a solution, and you have good reason to believe that the solution will not solve the problem (and might waste time and money), then it's good, relevant advice to say so and to explain why. You say that Airbone "worked for you," but without a controlled study and statistical analysis, you have zero evidence that your health with Airborne was any better than it would have been without.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:51 AM on January 3, 2006

Thanks, mbrubeck. I had been thinking about that old thread.

To answer the questions, yes, it's a cold and not allergies; it starts when I'm in Florida and doesn't go away when I come home. This year is typical. And to reiterate, I get sick on this particular trip each year, while other airline flights (including some to Florida) don't get me.

Chalk it up to the confines of a plane during the most crowded and chilly part of the year, I guess. I was just wondering if there was anything else.
posted by werty at 9:57 AM on January 3, 2006

I don't agree, mbrubeck. I used Airborne, and compared to all the other times I've been sick, I saw how it affected my health. Seeing as how AskMeta is a community-based site, often the only "evidence" in many questions is personal experience. To discount it all because it hasn't been the subject of a "controlled study" is silly. Not to mention totally boring and not what AskMeta threads are for. We're here to give advice, not rip down the well-meaning advice of others so we can feel intellectually superior.

Airborne only cost $6 (or so) a tube, so if the poster uses it and feels it has wasted his time and money, he can feel free to bill me for it.

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:00 AM on January 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

[some comments removed, take meta-discussion to email or metatalk]
posted by jessamyn at 11:24 AM on January 3, 2006

Aside from close quarters, the amount of contact you have w/ infected material and surfaces via passenger screening, your ID being handled, touching the same things that a thousand other travelers have touched, with fewer occasions to wash up, is key. Rhinoviruses are hardy enough to live quite a while on surfaces, money, etc. The Florida thing is coincidental.
posted by docpops at 12:47 PM on January 3, 2006

I have a cold right now, it is more than likely that I gave it to you. But on a more serious note, did you have any contact with the senior citizen population? This time of year is notorious for them to catch a cold.
posted by Number27 at 6:34 PM on January 3, 2006

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