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How to Stay Healthy During the Holiday Season

Patients often ask me how to prevent getting sick during the winter or when there are lots of people gathering, such as over the holidays. Sometimes, they have young children to protect, and sometimes, there are frail elderly relatives or someone who is immunosuppressed who can't afford to be sick. Other than giving my patient a flu shot, here are some of my more general tips.

HUMIDITY

I recommend a warm-mist humidifier in your bedroom, especially if you live in a cold area. The reason why there is more illness in the winter (like the flu) is because viruses survive longer on surfaces in cold, dry environments. While opposite is true of bacteria, viruses initiate the majority of illnesses. The warm, moist air will kill more viruses. Moist air is also better for keeping your respiratory passage secretions moving, so your body can more quickly and naturally clear the germs that get in that way.

HAND WASHING NOT VITAMINS

Vitamin C and various supplements to prevent colds are not well-supported by research data. But hand-washing is very important. Every time you come into direct contact with people or touch surfaces many other people are touching, use an alcohol-based sanitizer or wash your hands. That's the single most important tip to stay healthy this winter!

SNEEZING AND COUGHING

If you are sick and must be around people, there are new ways to prevent spreading your germs! When coughing or sneezing, don't use your hands to cover your mouth and nose. Don't even use a tissue (which requires you to use your hands). Use your elbow. The inside of the elbow rarely touches any other surfaces, so it's okay to have a few germs there. Of course, if there is a lot of discharge from your nose, it's okay to use a tissue. But you'll have to wash your hands afterwards, to be kind to the others around you.

BATHROOM BEHAVIORS

If you work in healthcare or the food industry, I sure hope you already know! You must always wash your hands, with soap. Alcohol sanitizers don't cut it after using the bathroom.

  1. Get the paper towel ready if it's a dispenser that requires you to touch something.
  2. After washing with soap, making sure you clean between your fingers and around your fingernails, rinse thoroughly. They say 30 seconds with warm water. That's the ideal situation, but the minimum is soap. I prefer foam soaps because its far less wasteful, easier to get on all hand surfaces, and better for the environment.
  3. Don't turn off the water yet.
  4. Use a paper towel to dry. Paper towels are more sanitary than air dryers which blow potentially dirty air around the room. That's why most hospitals use paper towel, not the air blowers.
  5. Use the paper towel to turn off the water.
  6. Use the paper towel to open all doors exiting the bathroom.

GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP

Getting enough sleep during the holiday can be challenge if you are traveling (room with snoring people, noisy hotels, or unfamiliar places) or tend or get anxious about all of the stuff to do! SleepPhones are headphones so comfortable you can sleep in them — like pajamas for your ears! You can listen to ocean waves, meditation, or anything you want instead of the unwanted noises and the racing thoughts inside your head.

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