The holiday season is a wonderful time to visit family, reconnect with friends, and reflect on life; however, beneath the festive atmosphere there are some unique health challenges for older adults. It’s for this reason that Charles E. Smith Life Communities’ (CESLC) Hirsh Health Center has compiled a quick list of health tips for the holiday season that are intended to help keep the illnesses that are associated with this time of the year at bay:

1) Get Into the Habit of Hand Washing

Often the simplest health measures are the most effective. Such is the case with hand washing; as a thorough cleaning that lasts at least 20 seconds, uses hot water and soap, and covers all the nooks and crannies found between the fingers can kill off the viruses that cause influenza, cold, strep throat, pneumonia, and diarrhea. To maximize its effectiveness, Hirsh Health Center recommends that everyone engages in hand washing whenever they:

  • Use a restroom
  • Are either about to eat or have just finished eating a meal
  • Handle any garbage as well as debris that was found outside
  • Are about to or have just finished handling food
  • Have petted or otherwise played with a pet
  • Have changed a diaper or are about to play with an infant
  • Have blown their nose or touched any bodily fluid

2) Sneeze Into Your Elbow

Since many viruses spread from one person to another via airborne transmission, it’s advised that people who have illnesses like a cold sneeze into their elbow. It is especially important to minimize airborne contaminants in areas like the residences at CESLC where older adults live.

3) Avoid Physical Contact in Some Cases

While a simple hug can do wonders for an older person’s spirit, there are times when their immune system may be compromised to the point where it can lead to illness due to the presence of viruses that are transmitted via physical contact. If you’re currently battling any illness, it’s best not to come into close contact with anyone who has a compromised or weakened immune system, including older adults and young children.   If you’re unsure about an older person’s susceptibility to illness, ask their attending health professional for advice on how to minimize the chance of spreading illnesses through contact. To help ensure that you’ll be healthy enough for contact during the holiday season, stay up to date with immunizations, practice healthy eating and sleep habits, and adhere to regularly scheduled health check-ups.

4) Try to Maintain a Regular Schedule During the Holidays

While the holiday season offers many opportunities for adventure and relaxation, drastic changes to the normal daily schedule can stress older individuals and children. Even working-age adults are advised to stay within the boundaries of their normal diet, sleep schedule, and activity level.

While this quick list of holiday health tips from the Hirsh Health Center can help everyone fight off seasonal illnesses and keep others free of illness, it is by no means intended to deter individuals from enjoying the season with their friends and family. Family members are, of course, always invited to visit their loved ones at CESLC. Individuals and the families of individuals who are looking for geriatric health services are also welcome to schedule an initial appointment with the Hirsh Health Center by calling 301.816.5004.