Is there a busier time in our lives than the holidays? With families traveling cross country, big meals to plan and cook and lots of shopping to do, there’s hardly a moment to take a breath. Which is all the more reason it’s important to stay healthy.
“There’s no time worse to be sick than the holidays,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D. “Yet because of factors like stress, lack of sleep and all of the close interactions we have with other people, it’s precisely when we’re most prone to illness.”
Still, the physician and medical researcher has three simple tips that can help you avoid spending the holidays feeling like a lump of coal.
“First, keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth,” said OMRF’s Prescott. The bacteria and viruses that cause colds, flu and other illnesses are spread by tiny droplets that can be passed by touch. And the more people you come in contact with, the greater your risk.
“Don’t shy away from hugs or handshakes, but you can avoid infection by keeping those bugs from entering your system,” said Prescott. “You can also add another layer of protection by washing your hands or using sanitizer often.”
A second line of defense, said Prescott, is your pillow. “Studies have shown that people who get eight hours of sleep a night are three times less likely to catch colds than those who average under seven hours,” he said.
The immune system functions better when the body is well rested. Plus, said Prescott, ample shut-eye provides an added bonus. “Researchers have found that sleep deficits are associated with weight gain.”
Finally, while the winter chill and Oklahoma’s harsh winds might make you want to stay snuggled up indoors, it’s important to keep active in the winter months, Prescott said.
“Moderate exercise decreases the risk both of catching a cold or the flu and of having a particularly severe form of the infection,” he said. “But don’t overdo it, because if you exercise intensely or for a prolonged period of time, your risk jumps right back up.”
Prescott doesn’t promise any Christmas miracles. “But if you’re careful about sleeping, exercising and avoiding infection, those Grinch-like illnesses are less likely to come down your chimney.”