How to make it through the holidays without getting sick
‘Tis the season for traveling, holiday feasts and quality time with extended family. It’s also cold and flu season, and unfortunately some of the festivities may increase your likelihood of becoming sick.
How we get sick in the first place
Brian Krachman, D.O., a primary care doctor with Piedmont Physicians Group, says that during the holidays, his practice sees an increase in the number of patients with upper respiratory infections as well as strep throat and ear infections. He attributes the increase to a combination of frequent travel, exposure to large crowds, and lack of sleep.
“Say the person in front of you in line coughs or someone who is sick touches a doorknob. In crowded places, the likelihood is higher that there’s an active germ somewhere,” said Dr. Krachman. “The bitter cold is another risk factor for getting sick. Going between indoors and outdoors, hot and cold, can worsen allergies and the spread of germs.”
Preventative measures that truly work
While it’s inevitable that you’ll come in contact with germs, it is possible to prevent illness. First things first: wash your hands more frequently.
“That’s the first thing doctors do when we come into the exam room – we wash our hands,” said Dr. Krachman. “No matter where you are, you’re going to want to have a way to clean your hands. It’s smart to bring your own hand sanitizer, especially when you’re in situations where you don’t have control of the conditions.”
Next: clean up your space.
“At the office, wipe down your keyboard, phone and mouse when you come back from lunch and at the end of the day, especially if other people are using your workstation,” he recommends. “Germs can be transmitted by touch and droplet spray from sneezes and coughs. Keep tissues handy.”
Mind your manners: wash up before eating and drinking at a party.
“You can also prevent yourself from getting sick by eating responsibly. When you’re with large crowds especially, wash your hands before touching and eating food,” said Dr. Krachman.
Take care of yourself: Get plenty of rest, drink at least eight classes of water a day, stay active and eat nutritious meals.
“You are more susceptible to germs if you are tired and run down,” Dr. Krachman cautions.
So, you still end up getting sick. Now what?
If, despite your best efforts, you end up with a sore throat, fever or body aches, don’t despair – Dr. Krachman has advice for shortening the length of your illness as well as ways to avoid spreading it to your loved ones.
“Keep a thermometer in your home so you can monitor your temperature. For adults, a high fever is one that is above 105 degrees,” said Dr. Krachman. “If you’re normally healthy and still feel rundown after two to three days, see your healthcare provider.”
If you feel generally not well, but don’t have a high fever, give it a few days and stick to “grandma’s remedies,” like chicken soup, orange juice, plenty of fluids and lots of rest.
“Give yourself a few days on over-the-counter medications, but if you’re not getting better, see your doctor,” said Dr. Krachman. “Check with your doctor before starting these treatments because they can potentially interfere with prescription medications. The elderly should be especially careful as they are often on more medications.”
If severe and left untreated, the flu can lead to pneumonia or other serious complications. Finally, consider others if you are sick, taking extra precaution around those who might have a compromised immune system. Avoid hugging or touching them and consider wearing a face mask to avoid spreading germs.
By following Dr. Krachman’s tips, you can enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season.