T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring except for the influenza. The stockings were hung by the chimney dripping germs, virus’s and bacteria, in hopes that St. Pneumonia would soon be there. The children were nestled, all snug in their beds, with visions of sugarplums dancing in their feverish heads.
HEY! That’s not how this is supposed to go!
It’s the holidays, also known as cold and flu season. Here are the top tips to stay WELL so you can enjoy yourself and not take any added guests over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.
1. WASH YOUR HANDS! I know, I know you have heard this ten thousand times, but I am telling you again. As a nurse and as a mom there is no better way to prevent the spread of infection. Soap does not kill germs, but it makes them slide off your hands and down the drain away from you so do it properly. How do you properly wash your hands? It’s easy:
a. Turn on the faucet and wet your hands
b. Add soap
c. Rub the soap vigorously into your hands up to your wrists, get in between your fingers and scrub all surfaces of your hands for at least 15-20 seconds.
d. Rinse all soap off
e. Dry with paper towel and then use that paper towel to turn the facet off. (you touched the facet with germy hands, if you don’t use the paper towel as a barrier you just touched the germs again turning off the faucet!)
Touching the faucet again and “re-germing” your hands is also the reason I never touch the handles in a public bathroom. Use your foot or butt to push your way out of the door. Here is a disgusting visual to bring this point home, (extra tip: this works well on kids!) What IF, the person in front of you had diarrhea and did not wash their hands and touched that door? GROSS! Another hint, even if no paper towels available you can grab a wad of toilet paper to turn the faucet off and use as a barrier to push the door open.
What if you have no way to wash your hands? Hand sanitizer is the second-best choice. But if you have access to a sink and soap and water—WASH THOSE PAWS!
2. Stay away from sick people. If you are a student or have a job this one may be easier said than done. Check this out, a cough can spread a droplet six meters or nineteen feet! A sneeze can spread over eight meters or twenty-six feet! If you are around someone with an infectious cough or sneeze those droplets can hang in the air for up to 10 minutes. You don’t stand a chance! So, stay away! This is why small offices, daycares, waiting rooms are hotbeds of infection. If you do happen to work with someone coughing and sneezing stay away from them. Keep a bottle of hand sanitizer on your desk and go wash your hands often! If you are the cougher or sneezer, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm. Turn away from the crowd when you feel the cough or sneeze coming on and wash your hands frequently. Do your very best to keep this to yourself!
3. Eat well and stay hydrated! Focus on good nutrition to keep your health in tip top shape during cold and flu season. Focus on your proteins and plenty of fruits and vegetable to keep your immune system in good shape to fight off any invading germs. That diet soda and chocolate bar may make for a quick lunch at your desk, but do better by your body with a nutritious salad that will help you stay healthy. Dehydration is no one’s friend. Your cells require water to function, water carries nutrition to your cells and carries away waste products. Drink up and eat healthy, your cells and your waistline will thank you!
4. Get plenty of rest. I know that before you head to Grandmother’s house you have to make the cheese ball, the sausage balls, ten casseroles and dozens of cookies. And that is in addition to shopping, wrapping and packing and getting there. It’s exhausting… if you do not get enough rest, you weaken your immune system making you more susceptible to illness. Grandma wants you well and happy more than she wants sausage balls. I promise!
5. Control your stress levels. How drunk and obnoxious is Uncle Arty going to be this year? What toxic gossip is dysfunctional cousin Debbie going to spread around the holiday dinner table? And while you are worrying about them, your spouse has a fender bender in the Walmart parking lot? Crazy comes out this time of year. PLAN for it, expect it and find ways to deal with your stress so it does not consume you. The stress hormones you produce also weaken your immune system and it’s going to be hard to change the narrative from dysfunctional Debbie if your congested and miserable. Find ways to deal with your stress. Take some time out for yourself. Remember to breath, deeply, before any potential irritation and consider the source. Put a meditation app on your phone and learn to use it. Hey, at least you only must see these people once a year, right? And you can always head the bathroom to wash your hands if you need some space!
I hope these simple tips help you survive the holidays and cold and flu season. If you do succumb to any marauding virus’s, stop and take care of yourself. A cold must be ridden out, full blown flu can be treated if caught early enough by a doctor. Remember cold symptoms come on slowly, flu comes on FAST with fever and chills. Get to a doctor and they can prescribe you a medication to lesson the symptoms and duration of the virus. Then it’s up to you, get in the bed. Drink plenty of fluids and have healthy meals. Then you can go to Grandma’s and enjoy the love!