12 Tips to Leading a Healthy Lifestyle over the Holidays
By: Teneasha Washington
1. WASH HANDS
Washing your hands is critical in avoiding sickness and spreading germs over the holidays. It is always beneficial to provide patients with instructions on proper hand washing techniques during their patient visit. Tips for hand washing include washing hands with soap and water and rubbing them thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. Other ways to limit the spread of germs include sneezing in tissues or into upper sleeve or elbows rather than hands.
2. STAY WARM
As winter approaches, make sure patients know to stay dry and dress warm. Patients with infants and/or caregivers of older adults or older adults themselves are at increased risk for serious health problems as temperatures decrease.
3. MANAGE STRESS
For some, the holiday season is a very stressful time of the year with increased spending as well as grief from the loss of loved ones. If patients show symptoms of stress, make sure you link them to the appropriate health care provider to address their needs. Additional talking points include talking through ways to manage stress over the holidays, such as staying within budget or balancing time off from work while managing daily commitments. It is also important to emphasize sleep recommendations based on a patient’s age and activity levels.
4. DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE
Simply put – emphasize to patients the need to remain sober behind the wheel. With increased holiday travel, it is important to make sure drivers are cognizant of their surroundings and not under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
5. BE SMOKE-FREE
Emphasize with patients the importance of remaining smoke-free before, during, and after the holidays – making sure to address the health risks second-hand smoke poses as well. Patients who smoke can be referred to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW and provided additional information and resources to help with quitting.
6. TRAVEL SAFELY
Increased commutes over the holidays, whether long or short, increases the risks of automobile accidents. Make sure patients and their families are well equipped to make the drive emphasizing the importance of buckling up along the way. Patients with children should make sure their infants are buckled and positioned correctly in child safety seats. Older children should be properly positioned in booster seats based on their height, weight, and age. Local fire stations aid in checking to make sure child safety seats are installed appropriately. Provide necessary resources and referrals as appropriate.
7. GET EXAMS AND SCREENINGS
Ensuring patient and family health includes proper screening and exams. Patients at risk for diseases and chronic health conditions can be assessed early to improve chances for treatment. Make sure to assess medical history, and family health history to aid in suggesting appropriate screenings and exams.
8. GET YOUR VACCINATIONS
Along with assessing proper screening and exams, it is also important to verify both adults and children are up to date on their vaccinations. Make sure to assess medical history, family history, age, lifestyle, and travel plans to elicit the appropriate vaccinations. Patients leery of vaccinations should be provided with the appropriate information and research, so they make the most educated decision.
9. WATCH THE KIDS
The leading cause of death of children is unintentional injuries. With families oftentimes celebrating the holidays together, it is important to keep an eye on children as they play and eat. Make sure to discuss childproofing guidelines with parents making sure to keep hazardous items out of the reach of children.
10. PRACTICE FIRE SAFETY
Most residential fires occur during the winter. Always keep an eye on candles, stoves, and fireplaces. Make sure to emphasize the importance of installing or checking to verify that smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working.
11. HANDLE AND PREPARE FOOD SAFELY
As families begin cooking holiday meals, emphasize with patients the importance of proper food handling techniques to ensure food safety. It is important to wash hands and clean surfaces thoroughly. Keep an eye on potential cross-contamination by making sure raw meats, seafood, poultry, and eggs stay away from ready-to-eat foods and surfaces.
12. EAT HEALTHY AND BE ACTIVE
With increased food consumption and oftentimes decreased activity, make sure patients maintain balance and moderation in their activity routines. Limit unhealthy food intake such as sugary foods, fats, and/or salts. Make sure to include physical activity in holiday fun.
Healthcare Provider Resources
• The 12 Ways to Health Holiday Song
• Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives
• Be Prepared to Stay Safe and Healthy in Winter
• Sleep Hygiene Tips
• Impaired Driving
• Quit Smoking
• Child Passenger Safety
• Regular Check-Ups are Important
• Vaccines and Immunizations
• Parent Information
• Fire Prevention
• Be Food Safe: Protect Yourself from Food Poisoning
• Physical Activity Basics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015. Holiday Health and Safety Tips. Available at https://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/index.htm