Experts Reveal The 7 Best Tips To Help You Avoid Getting Sick During The Holidays

by Julia Guerra
Mosuno, Stocksy

The holiday season is near, which means happiness, cheer, and hacking up a lung or two are definitely in your near future because, in all these super intimate tidings of comfort and joy, family and friends tend to lose all concept of personal space. Not to be a total Grinch, but germs are a little too close for comfort around the holiday season, and all I'm saying is, it just takes one hello kiss, goodbye embrace, or passing of a plate someone touched with dirty fingers to catch a cold. So in order to avoid getting sick during the holidays, precautionary measures need to be taken, even if that means potentially offending a relative or two in the process.

It’s basically common knowledge that the most wonderful time of the year is also the most germ-infested, so don’t take this as me just being a paranoid Polly over here. In fact, according to Ramona Roof, director of marketing at CleanWell, there are a lot of reasons why sickness is so common this time of year. Virus-carrying relatives and coming in contact with crowds of people while traveling and shopping for gifts at the mall is definitely a large part of the problem, but Roof also points out the hard truth: Self-care often comes second to holiday celebrations.

“We stray from our good habit routine of eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep [during the holidays],” Roof tells Elite Daily. “The holidays present many opportunities to stay out late, skip the gym, and overindulge, not to mention the added stress that comes from a busier schedule and travel.” This sudden change in your routine, Roof explains, can throw off your immune system, therefore making you, and those around you, more susceptible to catching and sharing viruses.

Need I remind you that the holiday season only comes around once a year? Chances are, if you catch any sort of bug, be it a nasty stomach virus, stubborn cold, or worse, the flu, the most wonderful time of the year is bound to be anything but. Ergo, air-hug, blow kisses, lather up the Purell instantly after enduring one of Uncle Joe's handshakes — do whatever you have to in order to stay healthy, because the less germs that are lingering in the air, the better.

Get The Flu Shot ASAP

Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated prior to cold and flu season, if you haven't popped into your doctor's office or local pharmacy to get the shot, Dr. Rachel Kennedy, a family practice physician at Doctor On Demand, says there's no time like the present. In other words, get the flu shot, and get it now.

"I always recommend getting the flu shot because it is one of the best ways to decrease your chances of getting the flu," Kennedy tells Elite Daily. Even if you've already had the flu this season, she says, getting the shot can help "decrease the amount of time that you feel unwell."

Basically, unless you have an allergy to the shot, or there's some other health reason that prevents you from doing so, the flu shot is highly recommended.

Wash Your Hands The *Right* Way

Remember back in October of 2017 when Charlotte Cho, founder of K-Beauty retailer Soko Glam, wrecked the internet by pointing out the fact that most of us wash our faces the "wrong" way? Well, chances are you're probably washing your hands incorrectly, too, and as far as Dr. Kennedy is concerned, you're going to want to correct this hygiene habit ASAP to prevent illness over the holidays.

"The most common way to pass germs is through touching objects with germs on them or being in contact with someone who is sick," she tells Elite Daily. "To wash your hands properly, wet them, lather for 20 seconds, and then rinse."

Don't Be So Hands-On

I wasn't exaggerating earlier when I said germs are almost too close for comfort during the holiday season. You and your relatives, friends, virtually anyone around the dinner table, are all swapping microscopic bacteria left and right on dinner plates, platters, and bottles of cider, not to mention all the door handles being opened and closed, and snack table trays being passed around.

So how do you combat all the potential grime and germs you're touching all season long? Dr. Kennedy says it's important to be mindful of what your hands graze, as well as what your palms grab onto, and to know when to excuse yourself to the bathroom for a quick hand wash. "Make sure to properly wash your hands right after [you touch these things]," she explains. "If you don’t have access to a sink and soap, use hand sanitizer and spread it around both hands until it dries, or you can use disinfectant wipes to help clean your surroundings."

Call Your Own Bluff

Looking for an easy out when it's time to awkwardly kiss and hug every single person in attendance at a holiday party hello and goodbye? Dr. Nodar Janas, medical director at Upper East Side Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Manhattan, says it's totally OK to pretend you're already sick.

"I think the easiest way [to avoid getting sick around the holidays] is to tell friends and relatives that you’re coming down with some symptoms yourself and don’t want to share it with anybody," Dr. Janas tells Elite Daily. "Even better — wear a mask. You might avoid those annoying conversation as well."

Fill Your Plate With A Ton Of Fruits And Veggies

Listen, you don't have to tell me how tempting it is to skip any and everything green at a celebratory feast, and indulge in the decadent treats instead, like sweet potato casserole and cranberry sauce. However, everything in moderation, my friend. You can still enjoy all the festive goodies the holiday season has to offer, but if you want to keep your immunity up, Dr. Elizabeth Trattner, who specializes in Chinese and integrative medicine, says it's best to eat at least some fruits and veggies here and there.

"A good diet is one of the best ways to boost your immunity," Dr. Trattner tells Elite Daily, so it's important that you try your best to eat the rainbow — or, at least, part of it. Green leafy vegetables, red peppers, broccoli, strawberries, grapefruit, kiwis, and oranges are all good staples to pick up at the store, Trattner suggests. And when it comes to meat for the main course, she says, "make sure any animal protein is grass-fed, free-range, and organic."

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Sleep In Between Celebrations

Between traveling to and from your relatives' houses, hostessing your own soirées, and fighting crowds at the malls for the best products to gift, you're going to need a ton of energy over the holiday season. Sleep is imperative for that reason; plus, getting the recommended six to eight hours of shut-eye will help keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

"It’s important to slow down and get enough sleep as the holidays approach," Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, tells Elite Daily. "Lack of sleep has an adverse effect on your immune system, and places you at higher risk for developing both viral and bacterial infections."

Cut Back On Caffeine

Did I just hear you gasp through my computer screen? I know, I KNOW — but don't blame me, I'm just the messenger. Caffeine might give you that extra jolt of energy you need to be here, there, and everywhere this holiday season, but Glatter says that too much caffeine can cause dehydration, which can totally destroy your immune system.

As an alternative, herbalist and founder of Ivy’s Tea Co., Shanae Jones, recommends either switching to decaf, or putting all things coffee-related on hold until January. "Try an herbal tea substitute like Not Coffee with ingredients like roasted Dandelion root, providing a taste, smell, and color similar to coffee," she tells Elite Daily. "It’ll keep you energized without the crash."