Carolers, laughter, family gatherings and … germs! Staying healthy during the holidays takes a conscious effort. No one likes a runny nose — or worse — when they’re trying to enjoy the holiday season.
“Spreading germs increases in the fall and winter because people tend to stay inside, in closer proximity to others,” says John La Count, M.D., a pediatrician at St. Elizabeth Physicians. “These illnesses are spread by droplets, which are produced when people cough.”
Make it a habit to get the kids outdoors when the weather is sunny because wet weather causes problems.
“When it becomes cold and wet, and we have less sunshine, incident rates for illnesses do increase,” says La Count. “Fall is when it starts to become darker earlier, so people move indoors.”
If you dress the kids appropriately, there is no season not to go outside in cold, sunny weather for a little activity. Exercising outdoors rather than indoors is a good prevention mechanism, according to La Count. Whether you play with the kids, or go for a run or a leisurely walk, mother nature can help you steer clear of viruses.
FIGHT THE COMMON COLD
And then there’s the good, old common cold.
“Rhinovirus [is] the most common, with nearly everyone contracting this at some point during the season,” says La Count. “Influenza rates are variable, but generally increase over the fall to winter to include most of the U.S. — we are attempting to encourage universal vaccination to minimize potential spread and to increase herd immunity.”
According to La Count, younger children are affected the most by the common cold that causes wheezing and respiratory difficulties. Adults even need a booster every 10 years to maintain a strong immune system.
“Make sure you and your children have all recommended vaccinations,” say La Count. “Prevention is the best treatment, and immunization has been extremely protective with a significant cost/benefit ratio.”
Staying up to date on vaccinations is a good way to stay healthy, but there is more to it than that. Spreading germs happens by simply shaking your neighbor’s hand or going to a crowded birthday party where one kid has a tiny cough. Sometimes it is inevitable, but taking the right preventive precautions can decrease any chances of catching a cold. By all means, teach your kids to wash their hands often during the colder months; always before hand-to-mouth activities such as eating cookies and treats. And sneeze and cough into elbows — it’s a big way to avoid spreading germs!
8 WAYS TO STAY HEALTHY
1. Change your toothbrush.
2. Clean your cell phone, and don’t let others use it.
3. Don’t bite your nails or chew on things like pencils.
4. Get plenty of rest.
5. Serve a balanced, healthy diet.
6. Clean areas where kids play with bleach wipes to kill viruses and bacteria.
7. Use soap and water rather than alcohol-based cleansers to decrease the risk of transmission.
8. If you or your child become sick with fever, stay home until symptoms have resolved to avoid spreading to others.
– John La Count, M.D.