The holidays are a special time for family and friends to celebrate, reminisce, express gratitude, and reflect on what is truly important in life. It’s also a time to appreciate that health is the greatest of gifts.
Stay safe and healthy with these holiday recommendations:
Enjoy safe travels. Take steps to make sure your holiday trip is safe, whether it’s a crosstown jaunt or an around-the-world vacation. Prevent deadly alcohol-related crashes: don’t drink and drive, and don’t allow someone else who has been drinking to get behind the wheel. Every driver and passenger should always wear a seat belt. Children need to be buckled into a seat belt or a safety seat best suited to their age, height, and weight, in accordance with the law. In California, children under the age of 2 must ride in a rear-facing seat unless they weigh at least 40 pounds or are at least 40 inches tall.
Prevent injuries. There’s no time of year in which injuries can’t happen. Many injuries occur when people get caught up in the holidays and forget about basic safety. When trimming the tree or hanging decorations, use a step stool instead of standing on a chair or the furniture. When hanging lights from the roof line, make sure at least one extra person is present to steady the ladder. Bicyclists and skateboarders should always wear a helmet. Keep the family’s vaccinations up to date, to prevent serious bacterial infections like tetanus that can be caused when dirt enters a cut or a puncture wound.
Injuries caused by fires in the home are more likely in the wintertime. Always have supervision present around lit candles, stoves, and fireplaces. Make sure open flames are kept far away from children and flammables such as curtains and trees. Heating or cooking devices that burn gasoline or charcoal are meant for outdoor use only; never use them in the home. Inspect and test all home smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors monthly, and replace their batteries twice each year.
Supervise the children. Young children are at increased risk of traumatic injury. Make sure someone is watching the children as they join in at holiday gatherings. Place out of harm’s way any toys, household items, kitchen utensils, glasses, or other potentially dangerous items that kids are tempted to reach for. Learn how to intervene quickly and safely in the event a child starts choking. Set rules for keep playtime activities safe, including rules for the use of electronic toys and devices.
Manage stress. The desire for a picture-perfect, fun-filled holiday can lead to excessive demands on your time and your wallet. Don’t set unrealistic goals and expectations. Balance your holiday commitments at work and at home. You don’t have to do everything—ask for help from family and friends. Keep calm and maintain a positive attitude. Help your body recover from stress by making sleep a priority, and try to sleep for around 7 to 8 hours most nights. Check out more holiday "do's" that make for a less stressful season.
Stay warm. Exposure to frigid temperatures can cause serious injuries such as frostbite. Hypothermia—a potentially life-threatening drop in body temperature--can occur even when the thermometer sits above freezing. Infants and older adults are particularly susceptible to cold-weather injuries. Keep clothes dry, and wear a warm base layer topped off with a high-quality parka or jacket.
Get preventive screenings and vaccinations. Regular exams and checkups are essential to early detection of potential health problems. Following recommended vaccination schedules protects against disease and saves lives. The types of exams and vaccines a person needs depend on variables such as age, medical history, family history, lifestyle, and travel plans. Schedule an appointment for a checkup for the screenings and vaccinations that your doctor recommends, and learn how to get the most out of your checkup.
Live a smoke-free life. If you smoke, make this holiday the day you quit for good. If you know some someone who smokes, help them quit. Avoid areas where other people smoke, because breathing secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Find free resources at smokefree.gov or ask your doctor for help. Quitting smoking today with the right help is one of the best and most important things you can do for your health.
Eat better and move more. Moderation is key to healthier holiday eating. Find satisfying food swaps, like choosing a piece of fresh fruit over a piece of candy. Be mindful of the amounts of fat, salt, and sugar in each dish. Round out the family dinner with a fun exercise that can be part of a group activity, like dancing to holiday music.
Make a habit of handwashing. Unclean hands are a surefire way to spread germs. Keep hands clean by washing often with soap and clean running water. Rub the lather over the entire surface of the hands for at least 20 seconds. Remember to cover the mouth and nose with a tissue, sleeve, or elbow when you feel a cough or sneeze coming on. Don’t cough or sneeze into the hands.
Prepare and cook food safely. Protect your loved ones from foodborne illness when preparing their favorite holiday meals. Frequently wash your hands and all food preparation surfaces. To avoid cross-contamination, keep raw food products—and the cutting boards and utensils used to prepare them--well away from cooked foods, ready-to-eat foods, and dining areas.
Relieve loneliness. Remember that many children and adults feel a sense of loss, sadness, and isolation during the holidays. If you or someone you love are experiencing feelings of seasonal depression or anxiety, be sensitive to those feelings. Reach out to family and friends if the demands of the holiday cause you emotional distress, or be there to support those who may reach out you.
Remember the true spirit of the holidays. The holidays are a great time of joy and remembrance. Spend time making beautiful memories. Slow down and make sure to enjoy the moment. The holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on your blessings and seek out ways to make life better for all those around you.
How have you been blessed this year? Share an inspiring holiday comment below.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.