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Tips for a safe and healthy holiday

By Veita Bland, M.D. / December 20, 2019

Handwashing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of germs.

The holidays are upon us and we are ready to enjoy them with family and friends. As we reflect upon the year and all that has transpired, we must also take time to safeguard our health.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-P), Dr. Robert Redfield, sends greeting for the holidays but also sends along some reminders on how to keep you and your family well this winter. I will share them with you now.

His first tip is to eat healthy during this festive time of year. I have had patients gain tremendous amounts of weight during the holidays. The key to navigating all those family gatherings and parties is about balance and moderation. He suggests allowing yourself to have favorite foods but stick to smaller servings and balance them out with healthy options. Redfield further suggests that you choose fruits as a substitute for some of the sweets such as candy. Of course, he wants you to limit your consumption of fats, salt, sugary foods and drinks.

Staying active is a key to controlling those extra calories you consume. He suggests that you look for opportunities to increase your activity such as taking a walk after a meal, walking at the mall or just dancing to your favorite holiday songs. Strive to get 150 minutes of exercise each week.

Dr. Redfield next suggest that you get your flu shot. He reminds the public that the flu can result in complications such as pneumonia, bacterial infections and hospitalizations. He notes that few get the flu shot after November. This important because the flu activity peaks between December and February and can last as late as April.

Food poisoning can ruin any festive occasion. Dr. Redfield recommends washing your hands and work surfaces before, during and after preparing food and before eating. Keep raw meats, poultry, seafood and eggs separate during preparation. Be careful to cook to the correct internal temperature to kill harmful bacteria and germs. Use a food thermometer to make sure you got there. Refrigerate perishable foods including leftovers within two hours of buying or cooking.

Handwashing is one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of germs. Hopefully you are doing it correctly. Check the CDC’s website for a handwashing campaign entitled Life is Better with Clean Hands. If water is not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer of at least 60 percent alcohol.

Protect yourself from the cold. Wear warm clothing with wind-resistant coats or jackets, mittens, hats, scarves and waterproof boots. Dress in layers to prevent hypothermia. If you are working or playing outside in the cold, carry a cell phone.

Have your heating system, water heater and any other gas, oil or coal burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year to protect your family from carbon monoxide. Have a carbon monoxide monitor that will alarm loudly if detected.

Dr. Redfield reminds us that stress can be handled. He suggests learning healthy ways to deal with stress. Again, visit the CDC website for suggestions.

  • Winter storms and cold temperatures can be very dangerous.
  • Get your car ready for cold weather before winter arrives.
  • Do not drink and drive and do not let others drive when they have been drinking.
  • Wear a seat belt every time you drive or ride in a motor vehicle and buckle in your kids in the appropriate seat.
  • Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle or skateboarding to prevent injury.
  • Remember that anyone traveling by car, air, train or bus more than 4 hours is at risk for blood clots. Move your legs frequently and get up and walk if possible.
    Injuries are common during the holidays.
  • Use step stools instead of climbing on furniture to decorate.
  • Leave the fireworks to the professionals.
  • Prevent chainsaw injuries by wearing protective gear, including glasses. Make sure the saws are well maintained. If you do not know how to use them, don’t.
  • Most residential fires occur in the winter. Keep candles away from children, pets, curtains, trees and walkways. Never leave fireplaces, stoves or candles unattended.

The holidays are for celebrating. Take these steps to maintain your health. If you have time, visit and listen to the CDC’s rendition of the 12 Days of Health Holiday Song. I think you would enjoy it.

Dr. Veita Bland is a board-certified Greensboro physician and hypertension specialist. Dr. Bland’s radio show, “It’s a Matter of Your Health,” can be heard live on Wednesdays, 5:30 p.m. on N.C. A&T State University’s WNAA, 90.1 FM. Listeners may call in and ask questions. The show is replayed on Sirius 142 at 5 p.m. on Wed. Email Dr. Bland at


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