How to Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

This is a very familiar scenario for anyone – you're busy shopping or going out and about, preparing for the holiday festivities, when you realize you've caught a cold or even worse – the dreaded flu virus. Anyone who has a clean bill of health will be down for the count for at least a week with the flu, or for a few days with a common cold. But if you have COPD or another chronic illness that compromises your lungs, this could spell big trouble. Not only will you not be able to enjoy the holiday season, but you could even end up in the hospital with an exacerbation.

You don't have to hide away in your house, however, and miss out on the fun with your family, or the savings in the stores you might be able to find out there. There are many things you can do to protect yourself as much as possible, to keep your risk of illness at a minimum.

Holiday shopping often involves crowds and crowded parking lots. Travel with a friend or family member, and arrange for them to drop you off or pick you up by the door so you won't need to trudge through snow and exert yourself unnecessarily.

Give yourself more than enough time to get where you need to go, when you need to get there. Feeling rushed will cause you to overexert yourself, and the crowds will only make you feel even more rushed if you are on a time limit for shopping. Consider being able to find a parking space close to the door (if you can't go with someone who can drop you off), traffic on the roads, and long lines in the stores.

Use hand sanitizer regularly when you are out and about, especially after touching things such as door handles, shopping carts, and money. Some department stores supply sanitizer wipes at the door so you can wipe down the handle of the shopping cart before you use it. Just imagine how many people cough into their hand and put it back on the shopping cart handle, and that's not to mention they've just handled money and touched door handles.

Keep your mouth and nose covered when you are out in the cold, even if you are just walking from the door to the car. We've been doing this since we were kids, but it's very easy to forget. Keeping your breath warm will help prevent your lungs from becoming irritated. This is also important if there is no way you can avoid a crowd up ahead. Covering your mouth and nose with a scarf will help shield you from any germs that might be in the air.

In general, avoid touching your nose, mouth, eyes or anywhere on your face when you are out in public. Even if you've used hand sanitizer, washed your hands, and took all of the other precautions, there's always a chance a rogue germ can land on your hands on your face. These openings are the gateways for sicknesses to get into your body, and you should be careful to guard them.

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