The holiday season is a time conducive to the spread of viruses. There are many ways to protect against them.
The holidays... And viruses!
The holiday season is synonymous with merriment, not only for humans, but for germs as well! The numerous get-togethers make it very easy for these unwelcome guests to crash the party without a formal invitation! They take advantage of close contact such as hugs, kisses, and handshakes to spread from one person to the next. The result: an infection that wasn't on your gift list!
When your health isn't up to par during the holidays, you don't feel much like celebrating. You're also less excited by the prospect of a new year filled with possibilities. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid getting sick during this crucial time.
Celebrations during a pandemic
It is undeniable that the COVID-19 pandemic adds an additional challenge to infection control during the festive season. Since the coronavirus is highly contagious, all means must be taken to avoid contamination and outbreaks. When your heart is set on celebrating and getting together, it's so tempting to let your guard down and set aside the usual precautionary measures. For everyone's health, starting with your own, this temptation should be resisted.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, it is imperative that you remain isolated at home to prevent spreading the virus to others. Whether you have tested positive or are waiting for a test result, you must remain in isolation and follow all instructions to the letter.
If you or anyone close to you does not have COVID-19 symptoms, you can probably attend a gathering, but it is imperative that you follow all public health recommendations: restricting the number of people, frequency of gatherings, physical distancing rules, wearing a mask, etc. It is the application of all the recommended measures that will prevent outbreaks. These measures may change over time, so make sure you are well informed.
That said, COVID-19 is not the only viral infection to watch out for this holiday season. Here are some other examples of viruses that are common during this time of year.
The holiday "classics"
Some types of infections are almost an integral part of the holiday tradition. These include the common cold, the flu, gastroenteritis and cold sores.
The common cold is a relatively mild respiratory infection that affects mostly the nose and throat. It can cause nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, fever, etc. and usually lasts 10 to 14 days.
The flu is a more serious infection and a greater health threat. It is caused by a virus called influenza. Symptoms include high fever, general malaise, aches and pains, severe cough, severe fatigue, etc. There are many reported cases of the flu at the beginning of the year, after the holidays.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive tract that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, followed by symptoms of nausea, vomiting, stomach ache, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, etc. It is most often caused by a virus, but not always.
Herpes labialis, which sometimes manifests itself by the onset of what is commonly called “cold sores”, is often spread during the holiday season. It is a permanent infection caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Here are some tips to avoid the spread of viruses and prevent infections during the holidays and at the beginning of the new year:
- Consider staying home if you are sick or think you may be infected with a virus. It is better to stay home and rest than to go to a party and risk spreading the virus that ails you.
- Wash your hands often at gatherings. Properly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the most basic step in preventing viral infections.
- Keep your hand sanitizer handy. Disinfecting your hands with antiseptic gel is a complementary measure to handwashing. Make sure you have a small bottle with you, especially at parties!
- Avoid close, physical contact with infected people. Handshakes and kisses are excellent vectors for viruses. Warm greetings are a source of joy during the holidays, but they are also a source of contamination!
- Avoid sharing items with infected people. Avoid using glasses, dishes or utensils that have been used by someone else, especially if they appear to have a virus. Viruses can also spread through objects that you do not put in your mouth: toys, doorknobs, and smartphones, etc. For instance, it is important to know that the cold virus can survive up to seven days on dry, inanimate surfaces.
- Make it a habit to cough or sneeze in the crook of your arm. The droplets expelled into the air when you cough or sneeze can be inhaled by others or contaminate objects.
- Get a flu shot. If you haven't already received the flu shot, don't wait! Unfortunately, there is no vaccine that protects against the cold virus.
- Set aside some time to rest. Stress and fatigue don't help your immune system defend itself against infections. Get a good night's sleep.
- Quit smoking. Smoking affects your airways, immune system and overall health. This increases your risk of infections. If you are a smoker, put quitting smoking at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions!
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information on infection control.