Health-ready for the holidays

Tinsel? Check. Cookies? Check. Prescription medication refills… um… check?

Like a lot of other people, I tend to get so fixated on the shopping, the baking and the Christmas cards that I don’t give much thought to other necessary preparations for the holidays – namely, the stuff that helps us stay in a healthy groove despite all the bustle and schedule disruptions of the holidays.

My inbox has been filling up in recent days with tips and advice from the experts, and this is a great time to share it.

Let’s start with the travelers. For them, U.S. HealthWorks offers these suggestions:

- Get adequate rest the night before, so you don’t start your day already feeling rundown.

- Carry pocket-sized tissues, hand sanitizer and saline nasal spray. Use hand sanitizer periodically after touching public surfaces and before eating, and try to avoid touching your face, mouth and nose with hands that might be contaminated.

- Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated. If you’re going to be eating while traveling, eat wisely and avoid alcohol.

- Cramped seating and inactivity during long flights can put air travelers at increased risk of deep venous thrombosis, or a blood clot in the legs. To reduce the likelihood of this potentially life-threatening complication, it’s advisable to move around periodically. Wiggle your feet and toes, stretch your legs if there’s enough room to do so, and get up and walk around the cabin briefly every 20 to 30 minutes to restore your circulation.

- If you have chronic medical issues, check with a health provider about special travel precautions you might need to follow.

Here’s something for grandparents to heed when their grandchildren come for a visit during the holidays (or any other time of year, for that matter): Leaving your pills on a countertop might help you remember to take them each day but it also places them within easy reach of curious kids. In a study by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Poison Information Center at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., one-third of accidental prescription drug-related poisonings among children involved a grandparent’s medication.

Many older adults don’t use child-resistant pill bottles or weekly pill minders, often because arthritis or poor vision makes them too difficult to open. When possible, grandparents should ask for child-resistant packaging and take the time to learn how to use it properly, experts suggest.

Because child-resistant is not the same as childproof, grandparents should also take the extra step of placing medications out of reach. This includes medications stored in grandma’s purse or in a suitcase. If these precautions make it harder to remember to take the medication, try setting an alarm instead as a reminder.

From the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes a list of 12 holiday health and safety tips, a la the familiar “Twelve Days of Christmas”, that applies to just about everyone. The folks at the CDC even were festive enough to come up with a song you can send to your friends and family in a holiday e-card.

The list includes advice such as washing your hands often, bundling up to stay warm, using seat belts, preparing food safely and observing the rules of fire safety.

Speaking of fire safety, here’s a startling video, courtesy of WDAY-TV in Fargo, N.D., demonstrating how quickly a Christmas tree can go up in flames. The lesson here: Don’t leave candles or fireplaces burning unattended, don’t use Christmas lights with frayed or damaged cords, and have an emergency plan to evacuate the house should the worst occur.

There can be a fine line between obsessing about everything that might go wrong and enjoying the holidays with some preparation, moderation and common sense. But an extra helping of the latter can go a long way toward having a Christmas worth remembering in a way that’s good rather than bad.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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