Submitted by Alicia DeRuscio, B.S.
Community Education Assistant
Preventing Illness During The Holidays
The holidays provide us with a great opportunity to celebrate life, reflect on what’s most important to us and spend time with family and friends. However, the holidays can also expose us to many germs, especially if we must travel or prepare meals for relatives, leaving our bodies susceptible to illness. This holiday season, be mindful of your health and take some extra steps to prevent spreading germs to both yourself and others.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the most important things we can do to prevent sickness both during the holidays and throughout the year is to properly wash our hands. In order to eliminate and prevent the spread of germs, the CDC recommends the following:
- Wash hands with clean, running water.
- Lather your hands with soap and be sure to rub the backs of your hands, in between your fingers and underneath your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands thoroughly with clean, running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or let them air dry.
- If you do not have clean, running water and soap, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Apply the sanitizer to the palm of your hand and rub both hands together.
- Make sure all parts of your hands are covered with sanitizer and continue rubbing them together until they are completely dry.
As many of us touch our face, mouth and eyes without even realizing it, following these handwashing steps will help minimize the spread of germs.
It’s important that we utilize proper hand-washing during travel time, too. The American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates that over 100 million Americans travel during holiday time. With so many people entering airplanes, buses or trains, there’s a vast amount of germs spread throughout these areas.
If you are planning to travel, make sure to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for your hands as well as other surfaces. If you are traveling on an airplane, bus or train, sanitize areas such as tray tables, arms rests and bathroom door handles before touching them. If you use the bathroom, avoid touching bathroom surfaces; turn the sink off with a clean, dry paper towel and use the paper towel to open the bathroom door. Practicing these small hygiene habits will ensure fewer germs are spread to both you and those you’re traveling to see.
While you may not necessarily have to travel on an airplane, bus or train, you will likely still enjoy a holiday meal with loved ones. Whether you are cooking for family or going to relative or friend’s house, it’s important to practice proper food safety. If you or a loved one plans to cook, follow the CDC’s four steps to food safety:
- Step 1: Clean – Make sure to wash hands and all kitchen surfaces with warm, soapy water before preparing food.
- Step 2: Separate – Keep raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs separated from one another as well as from other foods. Make sure to use different cutting boards when preparing each item and keep them stored in separate containers.
- Step 3: Temperature – Cooking foods to high temperatures will kill germs and prevent illness. Be sure to use a food thermometer to determine if foods such as whole cuts of meat, fish, poultry and ham are cooked properly. If you have to thaw foods, do so in the refrigerator, microwave, or in cold water. Avoid thawing foods on the counter because bacteria can grow more quickly at room temperature.
- Step 4: Chill – After the meal, refrigerate all perishable food items within two hours. Refrigerators should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Handwashing, travel hygiene and food safety are all important in preventing illness in combination with practicing healthy habits. Don’t forget to continue consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet, drinking enough fluids and getting proper sleep over the holidays. While we may not always be able to avoid germs, following these guidelines will help decrease your risk of getting sick this holiday season.
For more information on preventing illness, contact your healthcare provide or call HealthLink Littauer at 518-736-1120. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.