The holidays are often a time that people look forward to spending together, by celebrating with parties, family gatherings or travel. Spending time in close proximity with others—and the seasonal changes—also mean we need to take a few precautions when it comes to staying healthy.
“With an increased risk of developing illness over the holidays, it’s important for people to take steps to help them stay healthy and enjoy the season,” said Katie Harris, an Advanced Practice Clinician with ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton North. “We also encourage each person stay up-to-date on recommended vaccinations to help protect themselves and others from illness.”
Those at greatest risk of complications and death due to both the influenza virus and Covid are people over age 65, and those who have certain medical conditions such as asthma, lung or heart disease, neurological impairment, weakened immunity or are obese.
People younger than five are at risk of complications of the influenza virus as well. Both the flu vaccine and the Covid vaccine are recommended for everyone over six months old. For more information about vaccinations, and to schedule an appointment, visit ThedaCare.org/Immunizations.
“While the pandemic has officially ended, Covid is still very much present,” Harris said. “The number of hospitalizations were increasing in some areas of the state this fall. Getting vaccinated is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of this virus.”
Frequently washing your hands and regularly using hand sanitizer can also help, especially when you’re interacting with lots of people.
If you do get sick, protect your friends and family by staying home.
“Many of us are used to virtual visits, so consider this as an option for family gatherings if you’re under the weather,” Harris said. “It’s better to stay away to protect family and friends who may have conditions that will make them more susceptible to serious disease.”
Harris also noted other ways to stay healthy during the holidays, including:
Limit alcohol use. The potential for alcohol-related crashes rises with each holiday. If you do drink, designate a sober driver for the evening, or stay the night where you are. Additionally, the American Heart Association says heart attacks are more likely during the holiday season.
Manage stress. Likewise, stress can be a contributor toward heart disease. Manage the number of holiday activities, set boundaries with family members, and try to keep the strain on your finances to a minimum. “We often think stress is just a natural part of the holidays—but it can become overwhelming and impact our health,” Harris said. “It may be necessary to take a close look at all the contributing factors and decide what you can do without.”
Get enough exercise. While the colder months sometimes keep us inside—adapting to the change and maintaining exercise routines as much as possible can help us stave off stress and chronic disease, including heart problems. “Keep yourself moving, even if it’s just to walk around the block,” Harris said. “The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of activity per week that gets your heart pumping.” Joining a gym or exercising with online videos at home can be ways to stay active indoors.
Eat right. While the temptation is ever-present to celebrate the holidays with cookies and other junk food, as always, practice moderation. “Foods that are high in sugar, fat or salt can contribute to obesity and chronic health problems,” Harris said. “Keep a good habit of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which also can help you boost your immunity.”
Prioritize sleep. Getting adequate sleep can help boost your immune system and ward off stress.
Harris also recommended having a plan for when and where to get care if you, or a loved one does become sick. ThedaCare primary care clinics often have same-day care available. You can check availability on MyThedaCare. Urgent and walk-in care clinics can offer a great option as well, and you don’t need an appointment. Plus, these sites often have holiday, weekend and evening hours. You can also choose virtual care for many mild to moderate conditions.
“Making your health a top priority can mean a happier holiday season for you and your family,” Harris said. “We’re here to provide care for our communities, empowering each person with the tools they need to support health and wellness.”
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 650,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 providers and team members. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.