Newswise — The holidays are a time of parties, festive get-togethers, family reunions and catching up with old friends, all of which add up to a lot of personal contact. With the flu season and the holiday season converging, you may be tempted to put your holiday plans on hold. But you can still be a social butterfly and go to all those holiday parties – while still taking precautions to stay healthy:

1.Do the air kiss. Greet your family and friends by giving them a hug and kissing the air near their cheek. If there’s mistletoe dangling between you and a friend, eschew the smack on the lips with a fake peck on the cheek instead.

2.Wash your hands. Always wash your hands before you start digging into the appetizers at a party. You should always wash your hands after you’ve finished to keep your hands as germ-free as possible.

3.Don’t use your fingers. As a party guest, use serving spoons or forks to put food on your plate instead of just reaching for it. As a party host, be sure to put out plenty of serving utensils and provide people with alternatives to reaching into bowls, such as creating individual servings of your offerings.

4.Get creative with your cups. When hosting a party, come up with fun ways of personalizing cups so there aren’t any mixups. Avoid serving beverages in their original containers for the same reason, so there aren’t multiple identical cans or bottles floating around.

5.Carry hand sanitizer with you. Remember: the person who sneezes into their hands transfers mucus and viruses onto public doorknobs, handrails, that product you just picked up, or the change the cashier gave you. Viruses can also survive hours to days on surfaces or your skin. If there isn’t a place to wash your hands nearby, use alcohol gel to sanitize your hands before you eat any food or even touch your face, particularly your nose or mouth. Keep some in your purse or pocket for those holiday shopping excursions.

6.Cough in your sleeve. If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, be sure to cough in your sleeve or the inside of your jacket to avoid spreading any microbes to people standing near you at a party. A cough or sneeze can spray droplets of water containing viruses that can contaminate surfaces as far as two metres away. Virus can then be transferred to someone if they touch their mouth or nose after coming in contact with that area.

7.Attending a religious service? Try to keep between one to two metres away from other people and politely refuse to share the communion wine goblet. Instead of shaking hands or hugging, try greeting others with a friendly wave or the new health-inspired elbow greeting.

8.Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to illness. Aim for a consistent six to eight hours of sleep every night, even during the busy season of shopping, planning and entertaining.

9.Sick? Stay away. If you feel like you are coming down with a cold or flu, stay at home until you feel better. There is always next year’s round of holiday shindigs to host or attend. Plus there are plenty of holiday specials on the tube to give you a boost of merriment.

10.Cold or Flu? A cold can strike anytime but October to March is flu season. If your symptoms include a headache and high temperature, contact your health-care provider, Telehealth Ontario, or Toronto Health Connect.


Dr. Tim SlyProfessor School of Occupational and Public Health

For more holiday tips from Ryerson University, go to: