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5 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holidays

Keep the common cold (and worse) at bay with these simple, common-sense methods.

Family get-togethers, office parties, gift-giving: The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. But as winter nights get shorter and colder and you spend more time inside, all that caroling can turn into a case the flu if you're not careful. Keep these five tips in mind to stay at your best.

Keep Your Distance to Avoid the Chills
During the holidays, family and friends gather together more often, but being in close proximity with someone who's sick can make it not the most wonderful time of the year. Because cold and flu germs are spread through droplets or aerosols from the mouth and nose, stay six feet away from people who appear sick and wash your hands if you do have to come in contact with ill individuals.

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Spread Cheer, Not Germs
One of the best ways to prevent infection is to wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or touching the eyes or nose. Dry hands thoroughly with a single-use paper towel and then immediately throw it away to avoid cross-contamination.

Be Smart, Keep Foods Apart
As you prepare holiday meals, keep yourself and your guests safe from food-related illness. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs (including their juices) away from ready-to-eat foods and eating surfaces. Cook foods to the proper temperature. Refrigerate promptly and do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours.

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'Tis the Season...to Beware of the Buffet Table
Calories aren't the only things lurking at the buffet table—germs live there, too. Party hosts can (and should) reduce the risk of germ sharing by serving food in single portions and using clean serving utensils. Guests should use plates only once and avoid snacking directly from the buffet or dipping vegetables or chips directly into a dish.

Hibernate If You're Not Healthy
When you're feeling under the weather, it's best to stay home. We get it: No one wants to miss the party. But consider two things: How great a time will you have if you're blowing your nose the whole time. Plus, those sniffles could be something worse than a cold. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose, coughing, fever or body aches can be signs of the flu, and should be treated properly.

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Dr. Allison Aiello, Ph.D., is a professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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