The holiday season is an opportunity to celebrate with friends and family. Whether you observe Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa or other holidays this season, here are our top ten-holiday health tips to follow to keep this season as healthy and safe as possible for you and your loved ones.
1) Beware of fire hazards
Make sure you take precautions to prevent fire hazards in your home. If you’re using an artificial Christmas tree, make sure it’s made of fire-resistant materials. And whether you have an artificial or real tree, make sure to keep it away from potential fire hazards like space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces.
If you’re using string lights, inspect them for any exposed wires or other defects before you plug them in.
Keep burning candles away from flammable materials. And don’t leave burning candles unattended.
2) Make sure you’re up to date on immunizations
You can also keep your holiday healthy and safe by staying up to date on recommended immunizations. Try to get your annual flu shot 1-2 weeks prior to traveling or participating in large gatherings since it takes 1-2 weeks to develop adequate antibodies after receiving the flu shot.
Make sure anyone eligible in your gathering is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines (and booster!)
And if you’ll be spending time with an infant less than 6 months old, make sure you’re up to date on the Tdap vaccine to avoid transmitting pertussis (the pathogen that causes Whooping Cough), which can cause serious and even fatal complications in infants.
3) Make healthy beverage choices
Another way to stay as healthy as possible is to make healthy drink choices. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, herbal tea, or other low-calorie beverages.
Limit your intake of high-calorie drinks like eggnog, which can have hundreds of calories in just one cup!
And abstain from or moderate your intake of alcohol, which can cause dehydration, cardiac arrhythmias, and an increased risk of injury.
4) Load up on vegetables
While holiday meals are an opportunity to indulge in foods rich in high-carb, high-fat foods, you can make your meals healthier by filling most of your plate with vegetables. The fiber in vegetables will keep you feeling full and satisfied and make you less likely to overeat.
Another way to incorporate vegetables into your meal is to substitute them for higher-calorie foods. For instance, cauliflower and parsnips can be used in lieu of mashed potatoes and can replace bread in stuffing recipes. Butternut squash can be pureed and used instead of high-calorie sauces. And spaghetti squash makes a delicious, nutritious, low-calorie alternative to pasta.
5) Incorporate physical activity into your festivities
You can make your holidays more heart-healthy by incorporating fun physical activities into your celebrations. If you go for a walk together, play a game of flag football, compete in athletic video games or hold a dance party after dinner, you’ll have fun making memories while staying physically active.
6) Learn your family health history
Holiday celebrations often afford the opportunity to talk to relatives you may not have seen in a while. Since many health conditions have a genetic component that can be inherited by other family members, you can use the holiday gathering to learn more about your family’s health history.
By learning, if your relatives have had early cancer diagnoses, heart attacks, strokes, high cholesterol, diabetes, aneurysms, mental health diagnoses and other conditions, you can better understand your personal health risks and be proactive about preventing and/or screening for them.
7) Be prepared for emergencies
Being prepared in case of emergencies is another important way to keep your holidays as safe as possible.
If you’re traveling by car, make sure you have a full tank of gas. And pack a roadside emergency kit that includes emergency flares, jumper cables, a flashlight with extra batteries, a compass, a multipurpose tool, a spare tire with a wrench and jack, blankets and drinking water.
If you’re flying, make sure to pack your medications in your carry-on bag, since checked luggage can be lost or delayed.
In your home, make sure you have a fire extinguisher, working fire detectors, flashlights with extra batteries, drinking water, non-perishable food, and a clear family emergency exit plan.
8) Rest & destress
Holiday planning, travel, cooking, shopping, and decorating can be enjoyable, but they can also be stressful. This stress can lead to elevated levels of stress hormones, elevated blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.
To make the most of your holiday season, carve out time to intentionally rest and destress. Get 7-9 hours of sleep a night, take time to meditate every day, practice gratitude and mindfulness throughout the day, and engage in stress-lowering activities like reading, walking, yoga, massages and creating art.
9) Practice kitchen safety
If you’re preparing a meal this holiday season, follow kitchen safety recommendations to keep you and your loved ones as healthy and safe as possible.
Use knives and other sharp kitchen instruments carefully. Cuts from knives are the most commonly sustained kitchen injury. Don’t leave a hot stovetop unattended and keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case. Keep small children and pets out of the kitchen. Handle hot objects carefully to avoid burn injuries.
And avoid foodborne illnesses by properly storing and preparing food and remember not to leave perishable food sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
10) Enjoy yourself
In addition to the above tips, remember to enjoy yourself! Joy, gratitude, and laughter are good for mental and physical health. And healthy social connections lower the risk of anxiety, depression, suicidality, and heart disease.
So whatever else your holidays entail, enjoy the gift of love and happiness this special season brings.
Visit urgent care to treat kitchen injuries
In the unlikely event, yourself or someone else does cut themselves in the kitchen and might need stitches, come see the experts at one of our urgent care locations. You can walk in without an appointment, or save your spot online at one of our urgent care centers located nationwide. We are open 365 days and during holidays. We’ll have you back to feeling better in no time.
Written by Sarah Thebarge, Physician Assistant