12 Tips for Healthy Holidays
In the spirit of the 12 days of Christmas, here are 12 tips to help you have a happier, healthier holiday season.
- Wash Your Hands
Regular hand-washing is the best way to stop the spread of germs that cause winter illnesses like colds and the flu. Follow proper hand washing techniques and try singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to make sure you do a good job.
- Travel Safely
Traveling in the winter requires extra precautions. OSHA recommends keeping the three P’s in mind when driving in the winter: PREPARE for the trip; PROTECT yourself; and PREVENT crashes on the road. Prepare by making sure your car’s maintenance is up-to-date, and emergency gear (like flashlights and jumper cables) are packed in your car. You should also check your route’s conditions by visiting www.511ia.org. Protect yourself by always wearing a seatbelt, and keeping gloves, a hat and other warm accessories with you should you break down or have an accident. Prevent crashes by slowing down and keeping safe distances between you and other cars. Make sure you have plenty of rest before long trips, and as always – arrange for a designated driver if you plan on celebrating the holidays with a cocktail or two!
- Go Smoke-Free
Now is a great time to begin preparations to quit smoking in 2015. The health benefits are endless, and it’s a great (and free!) gift you can give to your family for the holidays. For help, visit www.mercycare.org/smokingcessation/, or talk to your MercyCare Primary Care Provider for advice.
- Stay Warm
Cold weather can be hazardous to your health. When spending extended time outdoors on cold days, wear layers of light, warm clothing. Waterproof boots can keep your toes warm and toasty, even when tromping through inches of snow. You should also take frequent breaks to warm up if you are working outside.
- Keep Kids Safe
Kids love playing in the snow, and it seems like their cold tolerance is much higher than ours when they are having so much fun. Keep this in mind when sending kids out to play: generally kids can play outside comfortably when it’s 30 degrees and higher (also take the wind chill into consideration). From 20-30 degrees, be more cautious – it’s still okay for them to play but for shorter amounts of time with indoor breaks to warm up. For temperatures lower than 20 degrees, it’s best to keep kids indoors. Be sure to layer them up and dress them appropriately for each temperature.
- Checkups and Vaccinations
Most insurance companies now provide free preventive exams (annually physical or wellness visits). If you haven’t been in for a checkup in 2014, now is the time to schedule! It’s also a good time to make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations, especially your flu shot to protect yourself and those around you from the flu.
- Check your Furnace
It’s recommended to have your furnace cleaned and checked every year, especially if it is an older model. Furnaces that aren’t operating correctly can release carbon monoxide, a deadly gas, into your home. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can cause flu-like symptoms, disorientation, confusion and even death if undetected. Carbon monoxide detectors can be purchased to help monitor levels within your home.
- Eat Well
We’ll admit it – fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t as appealing in the winter as they are in the summer months. Add in the calories from holiday treats, and you may find yourself a few pounds heavier by the time spring comes around. Try to incorporate vegetables and fruits into your diet that are in season during the winter: Brussels sprouts, squash, kiwi, oranges, pears, and sweet potatoes, just to name a few!
- Vitamin D
From October through March, many people in North America lack Vitamin D due to the angle of the sun. Among other health benefits, Vitamin D promotes healthy bones by assisting with calcium absorption. To ensure you are getting enough Vitamin D without help from the sun, you can make up for it with your diet by eating salmon, tuna or fortified milk or by taking a Vitamin D supplement. Ask your primary care physician if you are getting enough Vitamin D.
- Prevent Dry Skin
As soon as our heat goes on, our skin tends to dry out. To prevent your skin from peeling and cracking, try moisturizing more often with an oil-based moisturizer (as opposed to water-based). Protect your lips by applying lip balm often, and remember to wear gloves to protect the skin on your hands when outdoors. You can also try a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home.
- Manage Stress
Many suffer from seasonal depression due to the shorter days and dropping temperatures. To fight the winter blues, keep up with your exercise regimen. Exercise is shown to raise serotonin levels, which improves your overall mood. You can also plan a winter trip or weekend getaway so you have something to look forward to. Don’t let the stress of the holidays overwhelm you; remember the true reason for the season is celebrating traditions and spending time with those you love – not stressing over gifts and decorations.
- Be a Light Unto Others
Sometimes, helping others can make you happier and healthier than any medication, diet or exercise routine. Remember during this holiday season to pass your gifts on to others. Many people in our community spend the holidays alone, and don’t have the resources to enjoy the season. Share a holiday meal with someone less fortunate, donate your time or resources to a local charity, or just spend an afternoon chatting with someone who may be feeling lonely over the holidays.