How to keep your family healthy over the holidays

The holidays are a time of happiness, love and cheer, but they can also be a time of sniffles, sneezes and tummy aches. Staying healthy during this time of cold weather, flu bugs and sugary snacks can be a tall order. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to improve your chances of keeping your family (and yourself) healthy this holiday season.

Wipe down germy surfaces

The best offense is a good defense when it comes to cold and flu bugs during the holiday season. Disinfecting wipes will become your best friend. Wipe down grocery cart handles, bathroom stall locks, even the seats and trays on the airplane you take to see family. You'll be surprised by how many germs can be found on the most mundane of surfaces including common areas at work such as office break rooms or kitchens.

If you or your family develop a cold or flu or if one of your visitors seems under the weather, do everything you can to disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs, remote controls and sink handles.

“If you have kids at home, stay vigilant about cleaning things they might be putting into their mouths, especially their own hands,” says Kristen Demarco, MD, with TriHealth’s Madeira Pediatrics.

If your children end up getting sick, keep them home to avoid spreading germs, and make an appointment with their doctor if they aren't recovering.

Cut down on stress

With the worries and flurry of activities the holidays bring, stress could quickly become a major factor in maintaining your health.  According to Stephen Fritsch, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist in TriHealth’s Department of Behavioral Health, stress is normal and expected, but could become “dis-stress.”  Signs of distress (poorly managed stress) can include physical changes such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure, altered immune function, fatigue, insomnia and changes in appetite; and emotional reactions such as anxiety, irritability and/or depression. 

Dr. Fritsch recommends the following for limiting the effects of holiday stress:

  • Be proactive and plan ahead:  Anticipate stress and demands. It helps to be organized and make the best use of limited time during this busy season.
  • Manage your perceptions and expectations: Dr. Fritsch recommends keeping a positive outlook and viewing stressors as a challenge rather than a threat. Be realistic and not perfectionistic. No gift, gathering, meal or event will be Norman Rockwell perfect.
  • Take care of yourself:  Make time for relaxation and renewal: engage in activities such as yoga or meditation; savor positive experiences (a meal, time with loved ones, music, a walk, etc.). Have fun! Engage in enjoyable activities, not just obligations.  Carve out some quiet time to rest, meditate or, perhaps, reflect on the spiritual aspects of the holiday season (if that is meaningful to you).
  • Make room for some unpleasant feelings – they, too, are normal. It is not unusual to have some “blue feelings” during the holidays. We may miss a loved one no longer with us or find ourselves just not as “jolly” as we expect.  When aware of such feelings, try to accept them in the moment and make some space for them. Most often, such feelings will pass. 
  • Talk about it and connect with others: Share your joys. If you’re feeling the effects of stress or less positive feelings, share those experiences as well. If physical or emotional symptoms intensify, seem to be unmanageable or persist, Dr. Fritsch suggests making an appointment to talk about your options with your primary care doctor who may refer you to a specialist or may have a behavioral health consultant in the office.

 

 

Focus on healthy eating

Maintaining a healthy diet is difficult during the holidays when it seems like food is emphasized as strongly as family and fun. However, your body needs a balanced diet to maintain your immune system and to keep off those unwanted holiday pounds.

When possible, limit yourself to one sweet treat a day. Make this a rule for everyone in the family and make it easier on yourself by putting sugary goodies out of sight at all other times. Out of sight, out of mind is never truer than when it comes to a 2-year-old with a sugar craving.

Instead of keeping a plate of cookies on the counter, replace it with an eye-catching veggie or fruit tray. Prepare snack-size servings of carrots, celery and cucumbers to take on the go, so you and the kids are less likely to impulse buy fast food or desserts when you're out shopping. Every mouthful of healthy food means one less mouthful of sugary sweets later.

Go for a walk

Make a goal to get 30 minutes of exercise each day. If you have kids, you'll need to fit in even more, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending children get at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity daily. This can include a brisk walk around the block, playing chase around the yard or playing on a nearby playground.

“Getting your workout in while you play with the kids will make it an easier on you and can be more rewarding for everybody,” says Dr. Demarco. “Not to mention, it’s just more fun, which is fitting for this time of year.”

If it's too cold to get outside, fit it into your day in other ways. Park farther away from the grocery store or run up and down the stairs in your home a few times. Make it a family affair with a living room dance party. Every bit of physical activity counts.

Keep you and your children healthy with proper care during the holidays and throughout the year, with the help of the pediatric health care experts at TriHealth.

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