Don’t Invite the Flu for the Holidays

Related topics: Health & Wellness

Hand washing is just one of the ways to be sure you don't receive the gift that no one wants: seasonal influenza.

During November and December, most of us spend time in crowds of people—at parties, while shopping, and as we make our way through crowded airports. This is also the time of year that seasonal influenza really takes off. Having the flu can ruin your holiday celebration! Entire families can end up sneezing and feverish…and then the dispersing guests take the bug back to their families and co-workers back home. Senior relatives are especially vulnerable to the sometimes dangerous complications from the flu.

Experts from Toronto's Ryerson University offer ten tips for staying festively flu-free:

  • Wash your hands. Always wash your hands before you start digging into the appetizers at a party. You should also wash your hands after you've finished to keep your hands as germ-free as possible.
  • Don't sneeze into your hand.  If you feel a cough or sneeze coming on, be sure to cough into a tissue or into 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 six feet away.
  • 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, replace the smack on the lips with a fake peck on the cheek instead.
  • 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.
  • Get creative with your cups. When 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. Multiple identical cans or bottles can easily be mixed up.
  • Carry hand sanitizer with you. Remember: the person who sneezes into their hands transfers viruses onto public doorknobs, handrails, products you purchase, or even 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 a small bottle in your purse or pocket for those holiday shopping excursions.
  • 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.
  • 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. Stick to holiday specials on TV to give you a boost of merriment.
  • Cold or flu? A cold can strike any time, but October to March is flu season. If your symptoms include a headache and high temperature, contact your healthcare provider.  And get your flu shot!

Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative, career-focused education.  Located in downtown Toronto, Ryerson is a distinctly urban university with a mission to serve societal need and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community.

The Number One Way to Avoid an Unwelcome Holiday Gift

It's not too late to protect against the flu! December 2 - 8 is National Influenza Vaccination Week, a national event to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination. Seniors are at highest risk of complications from the flu, so it's very important for older adults to be vaccinated if they haven't already done so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers information for seniors. Visit the website to use the handy "Flu Vaccine Finder."

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases

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