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 taking precautions to stay healthy:
1. Cough in your sleeveIf you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, be sure to cough in your sleeve or the inside of your sweater or jacket to avoid spreading any microbes to people standing near you at a party. A cough or sneeze can contaminate the air and surfaces with virus up to two metres away.
2. Wash your hands This is easily the most potent way to pick up and spread respiratory virus in the community. A sneeze sprays 2 metres; but caught it the hand it can be spread it to every door knob, handrail and push-button for the rest of the day. Always wash your hands after blowing your nose, using the washroom, and before you start digging into the sandwich tray or the appetizers at a party.
3. Do the air kissGreet 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. 4. 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.
5. Get creative with your cupsWhen hosting a party, come up with fun ways of personalizing cups so there aren’t any mix-ups. Avoid serving beverages in their original containers for the same reason, so there aren’t multiple identical cans or bottles floating around.
6. Carry hand sanitizer with youRemember: the last person to touch that doorknob, faucet, shopping cart handle or handrail may have contaminated it. Viruses can survive hours or even days on surfaces. If there isn’t a place to wash your hands nearby, use alcohol gel to sanitize your hands before you eat any food or touch your face, particularly your nose or mouth. Keep some in your purse or pocket for those holiday shopping excursions.
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 sleepLack 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 awayIf 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 television 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. And get your flu shot!
EXPERT AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS:
Dr. Tim SlyProfessor School of Occupational and Public Health