6 Ways to Avoid Holiday Health Pitfalls

As the holidays approach, we tend to travel more, eat poorly and drink too much. So what can we do to stay healthy during the long and eventful season?

Get ample shuteye

Lifestyle plays a big part in avoiding seasonal viruses so we need to get enough rest during the busy holiday season. The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep to regenerate the immune system and build better defenses against incoming colds, viruses and bacterial invasions. Good news—studies show that we can catch up on lost sleep. So if you go to sleep late one night and the next night you go to bed early, your immune system will work its way back on track.

Don’t go hungry

We tend to get off of our healthy eating routine this time of year. One suggestion is to not go to holiday parties on an empty stomach. Have a snack (like a nutritious and filling apple with peanut butter) before leaving the house. If you are staying with a relative or traveling for the holidays, make sure to incorporate super-foods like blueberries, oranges, broccoli and sweet potatoes into your diet to give you the vitamins and minerals you need.

Lay (a little bit) off the liquor

The easiest way to avoid a hangover is by watching your alcohol intake. If you realize the next morning that you have overindulged, try drinking coffee or water and taking OTC meds like Tylenol or Advil.

Keep a friendly distance

Viruses tend to spread when we gather in large groups. If someone with an upper respiratory infection or a cold sneezes on you, chances are, you’ll also get sick. Since respiratory droplets travel 6-12 inches in the air, keep a healthy distance between you and others who might be under the weather. Additionally, washing your hands frequently (especially after shaking hands at a party) helps.

Prepare before your trip

While airlines do the best that they can to clean airplanes and keep the air fresh, it is not enough. When people with an infection sneeze and cough, their respiratory droplets circulate and recirculate around the plane. Even though your immune system fights most viruses, if there is one that is new to you while flying, odds are you will get a cold 3-5 days later. Make sure to sleep well, eat well and incorporate some vitamin-packed super-foods into your diet before traveling.

If you are going to a remote destination (including the Caribbean), make sure to hand-carry all of your medication. If your checked luggage is lost or delayed, there may not be any pharmacies available to quickly refill your meds. Talk to your doctor about packing a carry-on “travel kit.” I always advise my patients, based on their specific needs (medical conditions, children, allergies, etc.), exactly what they should bring in their travel kit. You should also ask your doctor and your children’s doctor if all immunizations are up to date before a trip.

When all else fails…

People ask me all the time if doctors that come to your hotel room are better than a those at local clinic. The answer to that is specific to the vacation destination. In sunny Florida, a local doctor’s office or medi-clinic is a good choice. If you are outside of the USA and unsure of the level of local medical care, the hotel calls may be a better option.

For more from Dr. Nancy Simpkins, read her recent columns on the site or visit her online at nancysimpkinsmd.com.

Ben Kruger