In today’s hustle bustle world, it is common to pop an over the counter medicine and go about your day, even when you are feeling sick.
Now, a pair of Israeli researchers suggest that is the opposite of what your body is signaling for you to do.
Guy Shakhar, a senior researcher at the Weizmann Institute of Science and Keren Shakhar of the psychology department at the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion theorize that all those aches and pains and other “sick behaviors” are really encouraging your body to stay home.
However, according to the Shakhars, the reason is not so the sick person will get more rest. Instead, the goal is to isolate the sick person so that others are not infected.
In other species, such as bees, it is common for a sick individual to isolate themselves to protect the group.
Isolation also works to stop the transmission of deadly illnesses in humans too.
“We know that isolation is the most efficient way to stop a transmissible disease from spreading,” Guy Shakhar explained, according to Israel 21c.
The problem is that these days many people do not have the time or willingness to stay home.
“Today, for example, with flu, many do not realize how deadly it can be,” Guy Shakhar continued. “So they go against their natural instincts, take a pill to reduce pain and fever and go to work, where the chance of infecting others is much higher.”
The Shakhars hypothesize that humans have evolved in a way that the host’s immune and neuroendocrine systems make you not want to eat and make your muscles ache so you are less likely to join in communal activities.
“We name this theory ‘the Eyam hypothesis’ after the English mining community that isolated itself to contain an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1666. Three-quarters of the villagers reportedly died, but the surrounding communities were saved,” the Shakhars wrote in their paper published in PLoS Biology.
While they haven’t been able to test their theory yet, the Shakhars have pointed out that their research is just one more indication of what our bodies have been telling us all along; When you are sick, it is best to stay home.