Take steps to keep your children and your loved ones safe and healthy, and make health a priority during the holidays.
1. Wash hands regularly with soap and water to help prevent the spread of germs. It’s flu season, and in order to protect yourself and those around you, you should frequently wash your hands with soap and clean, running water for at least 20 seconds.
2. Bundle up. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing, including warm layers, gloves, hats, scarves and waterproof boots. Know the signs of hypothermia, and take steps avoid exposing skin to the cold. Do not put heavy jackets on children when in their car seats.
3. Manage your stress. Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, and out of control. Some of the best ways to manage stress are to find support, connect socially, and get plenty of sleep. Don’t forget to take time for yourself this holiday season.
4. Don’t drink and drive. Whenever anyone drives drunk, they put not only themselves, but everyone else on the road in danger. Choose not to drink and drive and help others do the same. If you do plan to drink at a gathering, make sure you have a designated driver or plan sleeping arrangements at your host’s house ahead of time.
5. Fasten your seat belts. Always buckle your children in the car using the appropriate child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt according to their height, weight and age. Buckle up every time, no matter how short the trip and encourage passengers to do the same. If the trip is long, make sure children are secured throughout the entirety of the trip or make occasional stops to check that they are appropriately secured.
6. Monitor children. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, electronics, drinks, household items and other objects out of the reach of children. Protect them from drowning, burns, falls, and other potential accidents. Also, be aware of toy recalls.
7. Practice fire safety. Most residential fires occur during the winter months, so don’t leave fireplaces, space heaters, food cooking on stoves, or candles unattended. Have an emergency plan and practice it regularly. Keep your holiday trees watered as well. The pine needles can be a fire hazard, especially if the needles are dried out.
8. Prepare food safely. Remember these simple steps: Wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate foods promptly. When cutting or preparing food, make sure you are using a stable surface and are cutting away from your body. Be sure to supervise children carefully in the kitchen, and use back burners and turn pot handles away from the edge of the stove to avoid kitchen injuries.
9. Eat healthy and stay active. Eat fruits and vegetables which pack nutrients and help lower the risk for certain diseases. Limit your portion sizes and foods high in fat, salt and sugar. Try to eat a well-balanced meal, even at holiday parties. Also, adults should be active for at least 2 ½ hours a week and kids and teens be active for at least one hour a day. Encourage your family to eat nutritious foods and participate in regular physical activity.
Here’s to a happy and safe holiday season!
Rachel Turner s a health educator for the Carroll County Health Department.