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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante    

“I’m sick of being sick!”

Taking care of yourself this holiday season

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

In Manitoba, the first few weeks of November have seen a significant rise in COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases. Compared to pre-pandemic levels three years ago in 2019, there are approximately three times the normal number of influenza patients right now. What is more concerning is the number of young children who are getting sick, with some requiring hospital admission.

This is leaving a lot of people wondering about what the holiday season will look like, and whether they will feel well enough to attend gatherings and parties. Many are surprised by how many people they know who are sick.

There are many factors contributing to high illness levels around the holiday season. Our routines tend to be off because of more social gatherings, which can involve alcohol consumption. This often results in less exercise and poor sleep. People tend to eat more sweets, fatty and processed foods rather than healthy meals. In addition, stress levels can go up because of more social commitments and pressure to spend money. Let’s also remember that Christmas is not always joyful and fun for everyone. People who are socially isolated and those who have lost a loved one might feel depressed around the holidays.

For some people, it has been years since the last “normal” holiday gathering and it’s exciting to think about having Christmas traditions back again. So, if your goal is to stay as healthy as possible until the festivities begin, here are some important tips to protect yourself and your family from the spread of germs:

1. Limit “unnecessary” personal contact.

This may take some advanced planning, but you can minimize contact with others by shopping at less busy times of the day and avoiding congested areas. You may want to rethink any travel or getting in close contact with people outside of your household. Avoid hugs and handshakes, and if you know that someone is ill, keep your distance.

2. Consider getting a flu vaccine.

Research has shown that the flu shot reduces illnesses, trips to the doctor, hospitalizations and even deaths. For people with chronic health conditions, it is important to get a flu vaccination. For more information, contact your family doctor.

3. Wear a mask in large crowds.

The pandemic has taught us that wearing masks properly reduces viral transmission and prevents pre-symptomatic spread. The effort that it takes to wear a mask is minimal when compared to the benefit of wearing one. It’s cheap and easy to wear a mask, and it provides a high degree of protection.

4. Sneeze and cough into your elbow instead of your hands and make sure to wash your hands frequently. Washing your hands properly for at least 20 seconds removes dirt, viruses, and bacteria to stop spreading to other people and objects.

5. Do not share drinks or face towels with others and sanitize high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, and countertops frequently.

6. Continue to exercise, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, keep stress levels low and stay hydrated. Keeping well physically, emotionally, and mentally will go a long way towards illness prevention.

Best wishes to you and your family for a joyful holiday season and a happy new year!

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

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