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Anxiety and Stress Disorders

Avoid Letting Sickness Spoil the Holidays

Contrary to popular belief, the dreary weather that accompanies the holiday season won't make you sick. But there are plenty of other features of the season that have potential to cause illness - and just as many ways to avoid catching a bug.

Sacrificing sleep is one of the most common mistakes people make when trying to fit in extra tasks and events during the holiday season.

A lot of habits are not conducive to a healthy immune system, and sacrificing sleep can be one of the biggest mistakes. Sleep deprivation can affect blood pressure control, increase complications of diabetes, and exacerbate anxiety and depression. And anything that compromises the immune system will increase susceptibility to respiratory infections during this peak season.

However, you're not going to get sick if you're not exposed to an infectious organism. So the first thing to do is reduce your chances of exposure.

The holidays pose a double whammy to wellness efforts: Most viral infections are present during colder months and more people are altering their daily routines - and stressing their bodies - to participate in the festivities. In addition, everybody is stuck indoors, spreading germs to one another.

In addition to maintaining a stable sleep schedule, frequent hand-washing or use of antibacterial hand cleansers is another top tip to avoid transmitting germs. And even if your hands are clean, it's best to avoid touching your face during the peak of sickness season because most respiratory viruses gain access to the body through the mouth, eyes and nose.

Getting your influenza vaccination in October or November is another way of preventing illness for the holidays.

To sustain good health during the holidays, you should also:

Patients with diabetes or high blood pressure, in particular, should maintain routine doctor's office visits and continue to carefully monitor and manage their conditions because a small indiscretion now could lead to big problems later."

Remember that moderation is often the key to good health, and common sense goes a long way at this time of year.

This article is based on information provided by The Ohio State University Medical Center Media Relations Office, and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2008.

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Last Reviewed: Sep 08, 2008

Charles J Manfresca, DO Charles J Manfresca, DO
Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University