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What you need to know to stay healthy this holiday season

Trying to avoid the flu? You may be washing your hands wrong

Medical experts insist washing your hands is the time-tested method of flu prevention, right behind flu shots. One simple hand washing tip may keep you from catching the bug.
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Medical experts insist washing your hands is the time-tested method of flu prevention, right behind flu shots. One simple hand washing tip may keep you from catching the bug.

From colds and flus to overeating and holiday blues, the holiday season can be a health hazard in so many ways. Most of us have the best intentions of skating through the coming days without issue, but if you tend to get caught up in the festivities with family and friends and neglect your own well-being, here are some of the most important ways to stay healthy over the next week and beyond.

Hand hygiene

Hand washing is the most important way to keep you from catching colds and the flu. Cold and flu viruses stay in the air for only a short time before falling to surfaces. Some viruses and bacteria can live up to two hours or more on surfaces like doorknobs, phones and tables. When an invisibly contaminated surface or object is touched with our hands, the virus may then enter the body and cause an infection. Transfer of illness-causing germs can occur when rubbing your eyes, touching your nose, or when eating.

If you clean your hands often and avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes, a link in the chain of infection is broken and you improve your chances of staying healthy. Though most colds and flu occur this time of year, other viruses and bacteria can make you sick any time, and this same simple step will help protect you.

Plenty of rest

Give yourself the gift of sleep this holiday! Getting enough sleep can keep your body strong and more resilient to stress and illness. While adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, 1-year-olds need roughly 11 to 14 hours, school age children between 9 and 11, and teenagers between 8 and 10.

Physical activity

Maintaining your exercise program can help manage stress and help maintain your weight in the midst of holiday parties. Make it a point to take a family walk (or two) every day after a full meal. A 20-minute walk to the park or to see holiday lights will help digestion and burn calories. Too cold for outside fun? Schedule a time for you and a friend to workout indoors. Play video games that focus on physical activity, weight training, Pilates or yoga.

Drink up

Dehydration can lead to fatigue, impaired mood and concentration, anxiety and headaches, so maintaining your hydration status by drinking enough water can help prevent those symptoms, making it easier to not overdo it with the eggnog.

Eat well

Maintaining a balanced diet can be challenging during the holiday season. Gatherings with holiday cookies, candy and baked goods can increase your energy intake and lead to weight gain during the season. One of the most important things we can do to stay healthy is to be mindful of what we eat. Nutrition plays a huge role in how we feel, and is a basic building block in wellness. A healthy body is better equipped to fight off illness and keeps us feeling better overall.

Remember to enjoy the meaning of the holidays and the time spent with friends and family!

Joeleen M. Stocker, MS, RD, CSP, LDN, is Mount Nittany Medical Center’s chief clinical dietitian and assistant director of nutrition and culinary services.
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