Women and men suffer different diseases when travelling
16 March 2010
For the first time, a connection has been made between gender
and sickness while travelling.
Patricia Schlagenhauf from the Center for Travel Medicine at the
University of Zurich and a multinational team analyzed data from
58,908 patients provided by travel and tropical medicine GeoSentinel clinics worldwide. The results have been published in Clinical
Women are affected more often by acute and chronic diarrhea,
irritable bowel syndrome, upper respiratory tract infection, urinary
tract infection, psychological stressors, oral and
dental problems and adverse reactions to medication.
Men, however, suffer more frequently from febrile illnesses,
vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, leishmaniasis, or
rickettsioses, sexually transmitted infections, viral hepatitis, or
noninfectious problems, including cardiovascular disease, acute
mountain sickness, and frostbite.
Women are more likely to obtain pre-travel advice and men who are
sick while travelling are also more likely to be hospitalized than women.
It is not the risk-taking by men, but their fragrances that
attract mosquitoes with malaria. There are several reasons why men
are more attractive hosts for the malaria mosquito. One is that men
produce more of the preferred fragrances: "The mosquitoes orient
themselves in their search for blood on odors. The preferred
fragrances include carbon dioxide, sweat and skin particles,
volatile compounds, and all these materials are produced more by men
than women." says Patricia Schlagenhauf. "In addition, insect
repellents are water soluble. So if you sweat quickly — which
men do more frequently than women — you must repeatedly apply
the insect repellent to be reliably protected."
Future research aims to address gender-specific intervention
strategies and the difference in susceptibility
between the sexes for the various diseases.
Schlagenhauf, Patricia, et al.: Sex and Gender
Differences in Travel-Associated Disease. In: Clinical
Infectious Diseases, 2010; 50:826–832, DOI: 10.1086/650575