The holidays are a time for fun and family, but they can also be hectic and lead us to make unhealthy choices. Don’t let things like injuries and illness ruin your holidays! Here’s what you should do in order to have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday…
Eat Healthy & Stay Active
This can certainly be challenging during the holiday season! Healthy eating is all about balance and moderation. Holiday parties and big family meals may tempt you to stray from these good eating habits. You don’t have to be afraid to indulge in some of your favorite foods but stick to smaller servings. Ask yourself if there are heathier ways to satisfy your cravings. For example, choosing fresh fruit as a sweet substitute for candy. You should also try to limit fats, salt, and sugary foods and drinks.
Staying active can help you keep a healthy weight during the holiday season (and make you feel less guilty about all the delicious food you’ve been eating!). Look for opportunities to work physical activity into your holiday. You could take your dog for an extra walk, park further away when doing your holiday shopping, or dance to your favorite holiday music. You should try to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week. That could be 20 minutes every day or 30 minutes for five days a week. It’s important to move more and sit less.
Prevent the Flu
Influenza is more than a cold, or even a “bad cold.” It can result in serious health complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections, hospitalization, or, in extreme cases, death. Getting the flu vaccination can reduce your risk of getting sick with the flu and can prevent serious flu complications. If you didn’t get a flu vaccination yet this season, you should consider getting one now. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Remember that it takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to be completely effective, so don’t wait any longer!
Prepare Food Safely
Food poisoning can ruin even the most festive celebrations. Each year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food. Following these simple steps will decrease your chances of food-related illness:
- Wash your hands and work surfaces before, during, and after preparing food, and before eating.
- Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separated during preparation.
- Cook food at the right internal temperature to kill harmful germs and use a food thermometer to check.
- Refrigerate perishable foods, including leftovers, within two hours of buying or cooking.
Wash Those Hands
Handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs, which is especially important during the winter months when colds and viruses are everywhere. Evidence shows handwashing can help prevent 1 in 5 respiratory illnesses like the cold or flu, so understanding how and when to wash hands is critical for staying healthy. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom, whenever you’re around food, after handling animals or garbage, and after being around someone who is sick.
Be Prepared for the Cold Weather
Outdoor activities during these winter months can be a bit more dangerous than during the summer months. That’s why it is necessary to take some extra precautions before leaving your house. Dressing appropriately is key – start by wearing warm clothing, a wind-resistant coat or jacket, mittens, hats, scarves, and insulated waterproof boots. Dressing in layers is a good way to protect yourself from hypothermia, especially if you plan on being outside for an extended period of time. It is also a good idea to carry a cell phone and emergency kit with you. It’s safer to travel with a buddy, but if you’re going outside alone, you should tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Remember to work slowly when doing outside chores like shoveling or cutting firewood. To avoid falls, sprinkle salt or sand on icy patches in your walkways.
There are also precautions you need to take to keep the inside of your home safe when it’s cold outside. It is important to have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas, oil, or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year to keep your family safe from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. CO poisoning is 100% preventable. Don’t use generators, grills, or other gasoline or charcoal-burning devices inside your home or garage. Be sure to install a battery-operated or battery backup CO detector where it will awaken your family at night if the alarm is triggered.
Coping with Your Stress
Everyone—adults, teens, and even children—can experience stress from time to time. And, unfortunately, the holidays are the most stressful time of the year for many. Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Thankfully, there are healthy ways to cope with stress. For example:
- Take care of yourself—eat healthy, exercise daily and get plenty of sleep.
- Share your problems and how you are feeling with a parent, friend, counselor or doctor.
- Avoid drugs and alcohol. These may seem to help, but they can create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
- Take a break from what’s causing your stress.
Recognize when you need more help and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Winter storms and cold temperatures can make travel dangerous. Planning ahead is one of the best ways to ensure that you have a safe trip. Know what the weather is going to be like and make any necessary changes to your itinerary. Remember, it’s better to be late then to get into an accident trying to get there on time!
If you’re traveling by car, make sure your vehicle is ready. Check the tires to make sure you have enough tread for safe travel, have an emergency kit that you can easily access, and make sure you have enough gas and windshield washer fluid in case you’re unable to stop. It is also important to remember standard driving safety rules – don’t drink and drive or let someone else drive while under the influence. Make sure you use a seatbelt and are using car seats correctly.
If you’re travelling by train or airplane, call to see if there are any weather delays before you leave your house. If you’re traveling abroad, check out the health and safety risks at your destination. You can visit the CDC website for a complete list of travel warnings by country. Remember to get any necessary vaccinations at least 4 to 6 weeks before you leave to ensure protection by the time you travel.
If you plan on traveling for more than four hours, you could be at risk for blood clots. Blood clots can form in your legs during travel because you are sitting still in a confined space for long periods of time. You can usually prevent this from happening by moving your legs frequently. If you are at risk for blood clots, talk to your doctor before your trip.
Injuries can happen anywhere at any time, and the holidays are no exception. Here are just a few tips on how to avoid some of the most common holiday-related injuries:
- Use step stools instead of climbing on furniture when hanging decorations.
- Leave fireworks to the professionals.
- Prevent chain saw and axe injuries by wearing proper protective clothing and glasses. Always operate, adjust, and maintain chain saws according to manufacturer’s instructions.
- Keep candles away from children, pets, walkways, trees, and curtains and never leave fireplaces, stoves, or candles unattended.
While most of this information is likely not new to you, we hope it serves as an important reminder to put your health first – especially during this time of year. If you have any questions or would like more information, please speak with your primary care practitioner. We wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season!