6 Spots to Watch for a Healthy Holiday Season

Tis the Season! The busy holiday season is quickly approaching, which means for many there will be lots of festivities to take part in, shopping in crowded stores, and straying from regular eating patterns. With so much on the go, trying to avoid a dreaded cold or flu bug is one more thing to add to your To Do List.I’ve decided to take a cue from the hypervigilant crews on cruise ships whose job it is to keep the germs at bay. Their efforts are featured in the story Cruise Through Winter Without Getting Sick in the November issue of Prevention magazine.

The article notes that housekeeping staff on cruise ships are constantly cleaning. It is estimated that one ship’s staff will go through 5,000 gallons of hospital grade disinfectant and 4,000 rags during a day. That’s a lot of cleaning! I probably don’t need to go to those efforts but I will likely try to avoid the 6 germ hot spots:

  1. Gym Equipment – 63% of cold-causing viruses are found on hand-contact surfaces of gym equipment. Clean the equipment before and after you have used it.
  2. Money Exchanges – Try to avoid paying with dirty money! Use your own pen rather than a waiter’s to sign a bill. You can also use the pen rather than your finger to pay by credit card or while at the ATM.
  3. Restrooms – Public washrooms are a high risk area. If possible, choose one with automated toilets, faucets, and towel dispensers. And wash, wash, wash your hands!
  4. Handshakes – Forget getting close and personal. High five or fist bump.
  5. Restaurants – On ships, buffet serving utensils are replaced up to 4 times an hour, plates are inverted, condiments come in single serving sizes, and lemon wedges are available only upon request. Look for restaurants that have similar practices.
  6. Touch/Grab Spots – Fingers are very “germy” because they come in contact with a variety of hot spots including door handles, the office photocopier, public coffee pots, elevator buttons, bar rails, arm rests, computer keyboards, and of course your cell phone. Use your elbow to open a door or push an elevator button. Wash your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer, and ensure it has at least 60% alcohol.

In addition to these 6 germ hot spots, we can be our own worst enemy. Research shows that during the next hour, you’ll touch your mouth eight times, your nose five times, and your eyes three times. A first class ticket to not getting sick, is to stop touching your face altogether.

Even though this is the season of giving, if you do end up coming down with something, please don’t share the joy. Stay home and take care of yourself until your symptoms are gone. Do enjoy the upcoming holiday season, have fun celebrating with friends and family, and stay healthy. Ho! Ho! Ho!

– Heather Stephens