How Not to Spread Germs During the Holidays

Use these easy tips to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy during flu season.

Published October 9, 2020
using hand sanitizer for holidays

Ahhhhhh...the holiday season. It's the perfect opportunity to spread festive cheer, good wishes for a bright new year, and a few nasty germs and viruses. This time of year is usually full of social gatherings, but it is also the time of year when the flu season peaks. And in 2022, there are still concerns about COVID-19 and new concerns about respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which has been affecting children and infants in high numbers.

While many of us are eager to celebrate this year and make up for the recent past where most of us were on lockdown, it is still important to consider a few precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Learn how not to spread germs during the holiday with a few easy tips. Once you know the best hygiene practices, you can take measures to remain healthy during the holidays.

9 Ways to Avoid Spreading Germs During the Holidays

If you'll be with other friends and family members during the holiday season, you can use still use COVID-19 basic guidelines for social distancing if you have concerns about spreading germs. With vaccines and boosters now widely available, social distancing practices have decreased across the country. But if you have a loved one who is at high-risk (such as older adults or those with a medical condition), you may want to take extra precautions. Following these guidelines will also help you to prevent the spread of the flu and RSV. A quick rundown of basic hygiene practices is a good refresher for anyone attending a holiday party or dinner.

Tip 1: Bow Out of Holiday Celebrations When Sick

Over the past few years, many people have recognized how important it is to stay home when sick. It is perhaps the best way to prevent the spread of germs from the flu, from RSV or from COVID. This is especially true when attending a family holiday celebration. If you don't feel well, give your regrets and stay home to prevent spreading germs to the rest of your family and/or friends.

If you suspect that you have COVID-19, take a test. Most pharmacies have home tests available and you can get a result within minutes. If you test positive, the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) advises that you stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home because you are most infectious during this time. The CDC also recommends getting medical care as soon as you have symptoms, so treatment can be started right away.

If you are in quarantine during the holidays, you can order your gifts online, choose the gift wrap option, and send to your loved ones. Santa can deliver gifts your gifts. You can livestream the opening of presents with your family on Christmas day, with Skype, Zoom or FaceTime and enjoy eating your dinner when your family does.

Tip 2: Reconsider Wearing a Mask

In December 2022, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky suggested that wearing a mask is an everyday precaution that people can take to limit the spread of respiratory illnesses. Masks are especially important for those who are immunocompromised or at increased risk of severe disease. She added that wearing a mask while traveling by plane, train, bus, or other form of public transportation is also highly recommended.

Of course, many of us have gotten used to not wearing a mask, but going back to masking may be helpful to reduce the risk of another widespread pandemic. You can make a holiday mask for your family to wear during the holiday season. By choosing a fun Christmas pattern for the masks, family members may be inspired to wear them with less complaints. This will protect everyone, while adding a touch of holiday festive cheer!

Tip 3: Wash Your Hands

Anytime you wash your hands, you should use warm water and soap. The CDC advises to wash your hands for a full 20 seconds to ensure you wash away all the germs. Over the holidays, you want to be mindful of continuing this practice.

  • Wash your hands when you first arrive at the holiday celebration.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Wash your hands after the meal.
  • Wash your hands when you return home.
  • Wash your hands before and after wrapping presents.
  • Wash your hands after handling packages delivered to your home.

Tip 4: Avoid Touching Your Face

Another thing you can do to prevent the spread of germs is to avoid touching your face. For some of us, this is especially challenging since the average person touches their face 23 times per hour! But be mindful of this habit as much as possible when around others.

When opening presents, or passing packages, food items, or handling other shared objects be especially careful to avoid touching your face. If you want to be extra careful, use a hand sanitizer after a gift is opened or wash your hands at the end of an activity.

Tip 5: Get Disposable Gloves and Sanitizer Wipes

You can reduce the spread of germs by wearing disposable gloves whenever you handle the mail, such as opening Christmas cards or receiving package deliveries. You can also use sanitizer wipes for the shopping cart handle or for occasions when you are out and about sharing spaces where people may have touched the same items that you might touch. You can also use sanitizer wipes to clean cans and packaged foods when unpacking your groceries.

While you might not feel the need to take these precautions all the time, you may want to practice them if you are going to be around higher risk individuals. So, be prepared and have supplies on hand.

You can also use no-contact food delivery services when ordering take out. When shopping in a grocery store or other store where you must push a shopping cart, wearing disposable gloves will keep your hands germ free, especially when touching packages, cans, and various grocery items others have touched before you.

Tip 6: Cover Your Coughs and Sneezes

When you cough or sneeze, you need to protect others. The best way is to cough or sneeze into a tissue and afterwards, throw the tissue into the trash and wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue handy, the CDC advises that you cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper arm. Wash or sanitize your hands immediately afterwards. The holiday season is often when people catch a cold or the flu. If you practice covering a sneeze or cough, you can prevent the spread of germs during the holiday season.

Cover your cough

Tip 7: Limit or Avoid Sharing

It is easy to find yourself sharing certain items with other people, especially during the holidays. You might share food utensils at family gatherings or handle cookies or other shareable items that others consume. During this time other shareable items might include towels, drinks, eye makeup, face powder, eyedrops, toothbrush, comb, cell phones, and anything that you've used near or on your face.

Try to limit sharing, especially if you or your loved ones have any symptoms of flu, RSV, or COVID. You should also avoid communal food, such as common chip bowl or a buffet. Instead, serve all food, drink, and munchies individually portioned.

Tip 8: Sleep, Exercise and Eat Right

The best way to avoid spreading germs during the holidays is to keep your immunity built up. This means you need to get plenty of sleep, consume healthy foods, get some physical activity, and consider supplemental vitamins (including vitamin D). When you are healthy, your resistance to germs is optimum and your body is better equipped to fight off infections. Taking these steps also helps you to maintain your energy and feel vibrant during the festive season.

Tip 9: Reduce Daily Stress

Stress can destroy your immune system and holidays can be a stressful time for a variety of reasons. Find ways to reduce your daily stress level through physical exercise, meditation, and other practices.

If the holidays are a time when you typically cope with depression, reach out to your support network and make your own mental health a priority. This is a time when you are likely to have many opportunities to spend time with important people in your life, but there is no need to feel obligated.

Remember that it's okay to say "no" when it doesn't feel right. It doesn't matter if you don't feel up to it mentally or if your physical self just doesn't feel right. Prioritizing your own needs can help you to stay healthy and may also help you to prevent spreading germs that can affect those that you love.

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How Not to Spread Germs During the Holidays