How To Keep Your Immune System From Taking Its Own Vacation This Holiday Season
Each holiday season, millions of people travel to visit friends and family and kill themselves trying to get to every holiday party, shop till they drop and eat like little piglets. A giant combo for getting sick and feeling miserable all winter long. Here are some of the things to look out for this holiday season and how to avoid the season of sick!
Sugar Plum Fairy: Immunity Killer – Who can deny that we have entered the season of treats, sweets and general overindulgence. Sure, it’s totally fine to enjoy a hot cocoa or a slice of pie during the holidays but not every day. Do your best to eat healthy and clean as much as possible, building up your immune system with lots of veggies (dark & leafy are the best) and whole foods. Keep up your exercise routine as much as possible as well as your sleep schedule. Be choosy when you enjoy your desserts and processed carbs because with every bite, you’re suppressing your immune system. Snack safely and take your vitamins!
Sneezin’s Greetings – Flu season reaches its height in late fall and early winter. This is because viruses circulate better in the colder weather but it’s not only cold and flu bugs that become active during colder seasons. Other viruses, such as the norovirus and rotavirus, become more active during winter. Norovirus, known as the stomach flu, easily spreads through contamination in food, drink and surface contact. The virus is found in the stool and vomit of infected people. Rotavirus also causes diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. So If you’re sick, cough into the crook of your arm and steer clear of any physical contact
Jolly Holiday Crowds – Think of the holiday traditions: catching a show, shopping at a crowded mall, attending holiday parties. All this means you’re indoors in crowds and exposed to everyone’s germs. As people cluster indoors, they use the same doorknobs, banisters and surfaces after wiping their noses or sneezing. During the winter season, we’re more subject to crowding, touching something that’s not hygienic and crowding and we tend to get less fresh air, too. Because it’s so dang cold out, we stay indoors, windows shut, making any virus that may be present more easily spread. Be sure to practice frequent hand-washing (at least 20 seconds wiping both the top, bottom of hands and between the fingers prior to eating and drinking) or use hand sanitizers. Also, occasionally open the window to let fresh air circulate.
Over the river and through the woods…Germs travel too! – Air travel means if there’s a small flu outbreak on the West Coast, that virus could be in New York in less than five hours. Germs don’t pay to travel! When family members travel across the country, they’re bringing along pathogens that have been in their communities and exposing them to new places. And it’s not only the act of being in an enclosed cabin of a car, bus, train or plane. We’re also subject to making our way through the crowds in the airport. Again, frequent hand washing and low contact with strangers will help. And hey, if you’re not opposed, wear a mask to filter out airborne yuckiness!
It’s the most stressful time of the year – End-of-the-year projects, reports, final exams, shopping, family gatherings, money problems — it could be all that work before break that spikes a stress hormone in your body. So much so that the increased cortisol level induces likelihood of infection during the holidays. Cortisol is a natural hormone that responds to stress, lowering immunity and making you more susceptible to infections. It also contributes to weight gain! The interval between acquiring a virus and becoming sick takes about 48 to 72 hours. You may have become infected when you were stressed and the symptoms may start to show right when you go on holiday break. But while stress may be unavoidable, try getting enough sleep, eating well and hydrating. Also, do your best to find things to do that bring you joy so as to counter act your stress. Prevent the stress hormones from wreaking havoc by better planning, avoiding traffic, buying presents earlier.