On Your Health

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10 Tips to Stay Safe During the Holidays

Staying healthy during the hustle and bustle of the season can be a challenge, but no one wants to come down with the flu or feel sluggish and weary during the holidays. Besides being exposed to hundreds of other travelers and their germs, the stress of navigating the holidays can put an added burden on your health.

Staying healthy during the holidays takes a little pre-planning, but it can be done. See our 10  tips below on how to keep your health (and sanity) whether you’re driving in a car, taking a train, flying in a plane or just spending time with family and friends.

1. Keep your hands clean

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Washing your hands after using the restroom or touching anything foreign is the best way to kill germs that cause illnesses. Door handles, sneezy children, escalators and gifts can all carry bacteria and viruses that are just dying to come for a holiday visit.  

When washing your hands, use warm water and soap and wash for two rounds of the “Happy Birthday” song. Using hand sanitizer during travel is an excellent alternative if you don’t have access to a sink and soap, so keep a little travel bottle in your carry-on luggage or purse. Remember though, alcohol-based sanitizer is extremely poisonous to your child, even just a few drops, so only use a pea-size amount and make sure your child has it thoroughly rubbed in until it's completely dry. Avoid using sweet-smelling sanitizer, and never let your children lick their hands after application.

2. Get your flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone age 6 months and older should have a flu shot, but different flu shots are recommended for people of different ages. When in doubt, talk to your physician or pharmacist. If you are on the fence about getting a flu vaccination, consider this: even when the vaccine doesn't completely prevent the flu, it could lessen the severity of it.

3. Wear compression socks when flying

Compression socks are designed to squeeze your legs, thus letting your veins and leg muscles move blood more easily. While often used by those with diabetes, compression socks are fantastic for frequent fliers because they are an easy and inexpensive way to keep blood from stagnating. While the risks for developing blood clots while flying are low for healthy adults, why risk it?

Compression socks are also great for driving long distances and while doing outdoor winter activities like skiing or hiking or anytime you're on your feet all day.

4. Stay hydrated 

Long travel days, especially on airplanes, can quickly cause you to become dehydrated, but so can cold, dry air. Since water makes up 60 percent of your body, it’s important to keep hydrated. Avoid alcoholic drinks when traveling and choose sugar-free sips like unsweetened tea and zero-calorie flavored water.

5. Practice mindful eating

It’s so hard to eat healthy when you are surrounded by grandma’s famous cookies, spiked eggnog and rich, creamy casseroles. While it’s okay to indulge sometimes, those holiday goodies can easily pack on the pounds and make you feel lethargic and oversaturated.

Try taking slow bites of smaller portions, focusing on the taste, texture and smell for maximum enjoyment. Better yet, find healthy alternatives to high-calorie foods. Swap the mashed potatoes for mashed sweet potatoes, use lighter cheeses like goat cheese or cottage cheese over higher-calorie cheese like bleu cheese, or sneak extra spinach and veggies into a morning power smoothie instead of a big breakfast casserole. See our blog post on healthy holiday cooking for more ideas.

Seasonal Workouts

6. Get moving with holiday workouts

Making time to sweat is a bit challenging when the holidays are so jam-packed, but you can squeeze activity into your holiday schedule. Swap your usual 30-minute run or cycling into two 15-minute workouts. Try going for a 10-minute walk twice daily with family members.

Splitting up your activity into smaller, manageable time intervals can make it easier to achieve. If you don’t have access to a gym or the outdoors, try doing online fitness tutorials through popular streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. If you’re lucky enough to visit or live in an area with winter sports, take advantage of skiing, snowshoeing and sledding with the kiddos.

7. Practice meditation and relaxation 

While the holidays are a time for gathering, they can make your nerves a little frayed as well. Tight deadlines, holiday shopping and cooking, challenging family members and travel delays can all make you feel stressed out and ready to blow.

Easy deep breathing exercises can be used whenever you feel anxious and meditation is a great way to manage stress. There are plenty of meditation apps like Calm and Headspace that can help you get started, but even a quiet walk around the block or in the woods can do wonders for relieving stress.

8. Make Sure Your Car Is In Working Order

With so many people traveling for the holidays, your vehicle’s safety is paramount. Approximately 480,000 injuries are caused by weather-related vehicle crashes, so be sure to have your vehicle inspected for winter conditions. Having tires at the right pressure, filling your windshield wiper fluid, making sure the heater works, and throwing some extra blankets in the trunk are all things you should check before a winter road trip.

9. Beat The Winter Blues

With shorter days comes less sunlight, which can take a toll on your happiness. For others, the holidays can cause depression or sadness. Beat those winter blues by ingesting a lot of vitamin C to battle colds and vitamin D to supplement the lack of sun, or even give light therapy a try. Also, limit alcohol use, which can cause emotions to run high.

If you have feelings of depression or suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

10. Make Sure Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work

The majority of house fires and carbon monoxide poisonings happen in winter. Don’t let the holidays turn tragic because you forgot to put new batteries in your detectors. Also, space heaters, electric blankets and stove-tops should be maintained and used safely. If you don’t have a smoke detector or CO detector, call your local fire department. Many times, an inspector can provide these items for free or at a discounted cost.

The best thing about all of these tips is they are easy to implement every day of your life, not just during the holidays. So, now armed with these tips on how to stay healthy during the holidays, you can relax and have a happy, healthy holiday season!