'What if doctors were able to change a patient's environment and prescribe a two-week holiday?'

London - Going on holiday isn’t just relaxing – it could be good for your health and should be prescribed for sick people, say researchers.

They believe that being in an environment that stimulates our curiosity could turbo-charge the immune system.

In laboratory tests, mice were given a two-week stay in a large cage packed with toys – and the exciting environment appeared to boost their white blood cells, which fight off infections.

Professor Fulvio D’Acquisto, of Queen Mary University of London, said: “This effect is remarkable because we haven’t given them any drugs, all we’ve done is change their housing conditions. You could say that we’ve just put them in their equivalent of a holiday resort for two weeks and let them enjoy their new surroundings.”

White blood cells are key to auto-immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Professor D’Acquisto suggested prescribing a holiday could help the sick recover more quickly – and even give worn-out office workers a new lease of life. He said: “What if doctors were able to change a patient’s environment and prescribe a two-week holiday?

“Or perhaps we could boost the effects of standard drug treatments that deal with the mechanics of infection, by also offering something environmental that improves a patient’s more general well-being.

“That might be a promising approach for treating chronic diseases.” The study is published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Immunology.