The good news is that with a little planning and some common-sense precautions, you can increase the likelihood of staying healthy during, through the New Year and beyond. Here are some tips to protect your and your family’s health, and help ensure you can enjoy the holidays:
Make vaccinations your first line of defense. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: getting an annual flu shot and staying up to date on COVID vaccinations is the best way to avoid serious illness. If you aren’t current with either vaccine, make an appointment to get them today. And talk to your doctor about whether you or your family members need an RSV vaccine. Remember that vaccines are available at drugstores throughout the community – and are almost always covered by insurance or free of charge.
Be mindful of your greetings. Greeting acquaintances, work colleagues and others with a handshake is a natural and generally healthy tradition. But during cold and flu season (and of course COVID and RSV) it carries additional risks – for you as well as everyone around us. Nobody wants to go back to the early pandemic protocol of maintaining a six-foot distance from everybody, but how about considering one of the alternative greetings from that time, such as a wave or an elbow bump? After all a warm verbal greeting and cheery smile is likely what people will remember the most.
Commit to hand hygiene. Frequent hand washing with soap and water is still one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Wash hands thoroughly after being out in public or touching any shared surfaces, such as retail counters, handrails or doorknobs. Always carry antibacterial gel for immediate clean-up as well as those times when soap and water aren’t readily available.
Pay attention to food safety. When preparing food in your own home, make sure that your work surfaces and utensils are frequently washed and sanitized. Be especially cautious when preparing meat, and keep utensils and cutting boards separate from those used for other food items. Clean up meat juices and work areas immediately after finishing your prep to help avoid any cross-contamination. When serving, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to avoid breeding bacteria that can cause illness. Package and refrigerate leftovers promptly. When dining out or attending parties, be especially cautious with buffets. Remember that the shared utensils used for serving the food can harbor all kinds of germs, so be sure to use antibacterial gel after serving yourself.
Be consistent with your sleep and exercise. It’s tempting to “find” time during the holidays by sacrificing sleep or your regular workout, but that’s the last thing you should do if you want to stay healthy. Getting enough good quality sleep is critical to maintain your immune system, and regular exercise (even just a 30-minute walk or some restorative yoga) is important for maintaining your physical fitness as well as reducing stress and anxiety.
Stay hydrated. It’s easier to become dehydrated when you’re out and about, so always carry a reusable bottle of water with you wherever you go. Drinking water throughout the day helps keep your metabolism functioning, your skin glowing, and your immune system healthy. Drinking plenty of water also helps keep bad breath at bay. That alone is reason enough to drink up during the holidays!
Consider masking up. Again, we know that nobody wants to go back to the challenges of 2020 and we’re not saying you need to wear a mask 24/7. But if you’re going to a crowded store or taking public transportation, it’s smart to put on a mask for a little extra protection.
Finally, if you feel unwell, please stay home and rest. In the spirit of the holidays, remember that protecting others and not spreading germs is one of the greatest gifts you can give!
This article appeared in the December 2023 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.