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Manage Holiday Germs

No More Germs

Along with passing yummy dishes and trading lots of laughs, you may end up spreading germs during close-quarter holiday gatherings with family and friends. Thomas Serbousek, M.D., UnityPoint Health, offers ways to help manage germs during this time of year.

The holidays and the start of cold and flu season unfortunately fall at the same time, making this time of year the busiest for urgent care clinics.

“The holiday gatherings we enjoy definitely contribute to the significant increase in cold and flu season,” Dr. Serbousek says. “In addition to close spaces, germs also reproduce more easily in a cooler, dry climate.”

So, what ways can you keep the germs at bay? Dr. Serbousek lists the following tips:

Hand-Washing

Preventing the spread of germs begins at the sink. As simple as it sounds, properly washing your hands is the number one way to keep you and your family from getting sick.

Cover Coughs and Sneezes

Instead of shielding others from coughs and sneezes with your hands, try using your arm to cover the germs. If you do use your hands, be sure to wash them immediate after.

Vaccines

Staying current on your vaccines helps prevent more serious illnesses. Influenza, chicken pox, Tdap and MMR vaccines are great examples, as these vaccines prevent influenza, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) and measles, mumps and rubella. Ask your primary care provider if you are up-to-date on these vaccines or would be a candidate to receive them.

Dr. Serbousek encourages family members to remind each other to practice good health habits, including receiving vaccines.

“Family members who are most vulnerable to disease are those under 3-months-old, the elderly and those who have a suppressed immune system, such as someone receiving chemotherapy. If someone in your family falls in this category, try to limit exposure to sick friends and relatives as much as possible,” Dr. Serbousek says.

If you do catch a bug from spending so much time with family and friends, Dr. Sebousek says to evaluate your symptoms.

“The majority of upper respiratory tract infections are caused by viruses and are usually self-limited, resolving in roughly 10 days. However, they can evolve into bacterial infections to include pneumonia, sinusitis and ear infections. If your illness last past 10 days, you should see your primary care provider.”

For unexpected health needs that arise before, during and after the holidays, schedule an appointment with your UnityPoint Health provider.