Staying Healthy for the Holidays
Heather Wright Williams, M D
The holidays are quickly approaching and I’m eagerly awaiting schmaltzy Bing Crosby on the radio, New Hampshire’s snowy wonderland, and merrymaking with family and friends. While we start the season humming “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” by the end, we too often find ourselves stressed, exhausted, 5 lbs heavier, and coming down with the flu.
Here are a few tips to make sure the season starts and stays wonderful for you and your family:
While you’re enjoying the outdoors, it’s important for the whole family to wear layers of clothing. Children are especially susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia, so dress them in one extra layer and allow them to come inside frequently to warm up.
Avoid cotton! Warm, wicking options like wool, silk, polypropylene, or nylon are good base layers. Top this off with a wind breaking, waterproof outer layer.
Keep a hat on and wear gloves, wool socks, and waterproof boots to protect the extremities.
Be aware of icy conditions and take appropriate precautions, whether you’re in the car or on foot. Give yourself extra time and drive slowly to your destination. Salt the walkways around your house.
While candles, fireplaces, and light decorations are beautiful, they can also create fire and burn hazards. Make sure cords and any open flames are out of reach of toddlers!
When everyone’s enjoying the egg nog, and the house is brimming with laughter and good cheer, the children can sometimes get into trouble. A responsible adult should supervise at all times. Keep hard candies, wishbones, and other choking hazards inaccessible.
Fall and winter viruses can really put a damper on your holiday season. Washing your hands is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from “catching a cold.” Wash with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds and do so: before eating a meal; when preparing food; after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose; after using the restroom; after coming into contact with someone who is ill.
Everyone 6 months and older should receive the influenza vaccine, unless you have a specific contraindication (your healthcare provider can answer any questions about this).
Newborns should be protected from illness as much as possible and no one with a fever or an active illness should come into close contact with the baby. We also recommend keeping newborns out of crowded public places.
If your child has asthma, keep a close eye on him/her since flares tend to occur more often in the winter months. Follow the asthma action plan set by your provider and make an appointment early if you have concerns about your child’s breathing.
Eat Healthy and Get Exercise:
While it’s tempting to overindulge in decadent desserts and festive libations, after the fifth holiday party, enjoyment can turn into regret. Excessive sugary, salty, and fatty foods contribute to fatigue and weight gain. You’ll thank yourself later if you enjoy these in moderation. Focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and fiber rich whole grains.
Many of us don’t get as much exercise as we should in the wintertime. I’ve been there- cuddling up by the fireplace is very enticing! But even though it’s cold, we still benefit physically and mentally from regular exercise. Aim for the recommended 1 hour of aerobic activity daily for kids and 2.5 hours a week for adults. Try sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing, or just going for a walk around the neighborhood! And if braving winter outdoors isn’t your thing, opt for indoor activities at home or the gym.
My hope is that these tips will help keep you and yours jolly through the New Year! Enjoy all that this wonderful season has to offer.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock wishes all of our New Hampshire families a happy and healthy holiday season!
Heather Wright Williams, MD, is a pediatrician for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Bedford. For more information visit CHaDkids.org