As nights get shorter and colder, you’ll find yourself getting closer and closer with germy colleagues, mouth-breathing commuters, and your super-affectionate extended family. Oh, and all those holiday get-togethers? They’ll trip you up, too, as far as your health and waistline are concerned.
To help you navigate the pitfalls, Allison Aiello, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, has garnered five easy-to-remember tips so you can stay on your A-game all-season long.
Keep your distance to avoid the chills
During the holidays, family and friends gather together more often; but being in close proximity with someone who’s sick can make it a not-so-wonderful time of year. Because cold and flu germs are spread through droplets or aerosols from the mouth and nose, stay 6′ away from people who appear sick, and wash your hands if you do have to come in contact.
Spread cheer, not germs
One of the best ways to prevent infection is to wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or touching your eyes or nose. Dry your hands thoroughly with a single-use paper towel, and then immediately throw it away to avoid cross contamination.
Be smart, keep foods apart
As you prepare holiday meals, keep yourself and your guests safe from food-related illness. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat foods and eating surfaces. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Refrigerate promptly, and don’t leave perishable foods out for more than two hours.
‘Tis the season…to beware of the buffet table
Calories aren’t the only things lurking at the buffet table—germs live there, too. Party hosts can (and should) reduce the risk of germ-sharing by serving food in single portions, and using clean serving utensils. Guests should use plates only once and avoid snacking directly from the buffet—or dipping vegetables and/or chips directly into a dish (double-dippers can be your downfall).
Hibernate if you’re not healthy
When you’re feeling under the weather, it’s best to stay home. We get it: No one wants to miss the party. But consider two things: How much fun will you really have if you’re blowing your nose the whole time? Plus, those sniffles could be something worse than a cold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, fever, or body aches can be signs of the flu, and should be treated properly.