With so many good things to do during the holiday season, no one wants to be sick. But viruses, the flu and winter bugs are more likely to get us down during the winter months. This is due in large part to people spending more time indoors with others when the weather gets cold.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers some tips for staying healthy any time of the year.
Get vaccinated against the flu. October and November are the best times to get a flu vaccination, although December and January are not too late.
Wash your hands often. Teach children to do the same. Frequent handwashing is the No. 1 way to prevent the spread of germs. Both colds and flu can be passed through coughing, sneezing and contaminated surfaces, including the hands. FDA says that while soap and water are undoubtedly the first choice for hand hygiene, alcohol-based hand rubs may be used if soap and water are not available. However, the agency cautions against using the alcohol-based rubs when hands are visibly dirty. This is because organic materials such as dirt can inactivate the alcohol, rendering it unable to kill bacteria.
Remember that to do a good job of washing your hands, wet them, apply soap and rub hands together for 20 seconds, being careful to wash the back of your hands, wrists and between fingers.
Holidays offer lots of opportunities for hugs and handshakes. But these actions also provide an opportunity to transfer germs from one person to another. Be very careful to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose or mouth.
Limit exposure to infected people. Keep infants away from crowds for the first few months of life.
Keep stress in check. Answering every invitation that comes your way may leave you overscheduled, overtired and more vulnerable to colds and flu. Manage stress by delegating, simplifying and recognizing that everything doesn't have to be perfect to be a good holiday.
Get plenty of rest. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night to stay healthy. If you're getting tired, even a 15-20 minute rest will recharge your batteries. But don't overdo it. Sleeping more than 30 minutes can lead to sleep inertia, which makes you feel sluggish and more tired than ever. And rest too late in the day can lead to a sleepless night.
Eat right. Reduce the possibility of food-borne illness by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Eat a small, healthy meal before party time to make it easier to resist the high calorie foods. At a party, don't stand next to the buffet table. Instead, mingle with the guests. And drink plenty of water.
Exercise. Try to schedule some time for being physically active most days. While watching sports on television, ride an exercise bike, treadmill or do some other type of exercise. If you don't have exercise equipment, do crunches, pushups or jog in place during the commercials. Even 10 minutes of exercise at a time has health benefits. And exercise is a good stress reliever. After a holiday meal, get everyone outside for a walk or an outdoor game.
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or firstname.lastname@example.org.