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 Infectious Diseases.

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

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