The holiday season is a time conducive to the spread of viruses. There are various ways to protect against them.
The holidays... and viruses!
The holidays are synonymous with joy and happiness, 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: the gift of an infection that didn't figure of your wish list!
When you aren't in top form 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, it is possible to avoid getting sick during this crucial period.
The "classics" during the holiday season
Certain types of infections are almost an integral part of the holiday season. This is the case, for example, for a cold, the flu and gastroenteritis.
A cold is a relatively benign respiratory infection that especially affects the nose and throat. It can cause nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, fever, etc., and usually lasts about 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 a high fever, general malaise, muscle soreness, severe cough, significant fatigue, etc. Many cases of the flu are reported at the beginning of the year, after the holidays.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the digestive tract that causes an inflammation of the stomach and the 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 appearance of what is commonly called a cold sore, is often spread during this time. It is a permanent infection caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Here are a few tips to prevent the spread of viruses and infections during the holidays and at the start of the New Year:
- Wash your hands often. Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is a basic measure to prevent viral infections. This recommendation applies if you are already infected by a virus or if you want to avoid being infected.
- 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 individuals. Handshakes and kisses are excellent vectors for the spread of viruses. Warm greetings are a source of joy during the holidays, but they are also a source of contamination!
- Avoid sharing contaminated objects with infected individuals. Avoid using glasses, dishes or utensils that have been used by someone else, especially if they are affected by a virus. Viruses can also spread through toys, doorknobs, and smartphones, even if you don't bring them close to your mouth. For example, the cold virus can survive up to 7 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 certain objects.
- Consider staying at home if you aren't feeling well. It may be better to stay at home to rest instead of going to a party and risk spreading the virus that’s affecting you.
- Get a flu shot. If you haven't already received the flu shot, don't wait! However, there is unfortunately no vaccine against the common cold.
- Set aside some time to rest. Stress and fatigue don't help your immune system to defend itself against infections. Give yourself a good night's sleep.
- Quit smoking. Smoking affects your respiratory tract, immune system and your general health. This increases your risk of infections. If you are a smoker, put smoking cessation at the top of your list of New Year’s resolutions!
If, despite these measures, you still catch a virus, speak to your pharmacist, who can help you to stay healthy at any time of the year!