This month, many in our community will be gathering to bake together, give gifts and light candles. Holiday celebrations are fun and often center around great food and gatherings of many friends, family and coworkers. The social activities are so important for children and adults alike — social connection is good for your physical and emotional health!
But along with holiday cheer, gatherings bring risk of spreading respiratory and gastrointestinal infections such as influenza, stomach bugs (gastroenteritis) and colds. In our emergency departments and urgent care centers, we see a yearly peak in stomach bugs around the week of Christmas. The viral season is already upon us – Colorado made national news recently with a large outbreak of a stomach bug that prompted local health departments to close the Grand Junction school system.
With influenza being the most common cause of hospitalizations for children, it's a good idea to see your pediatrician about annual influenza vaccinations and other vaccinations for your child.
Tips for a healthy holiday
How do you share in the festivities without sharing holiday-season viruses? Here are some tips on keeping your holiday season healthy as well as joyous:
- Social distancing — for infection control, but it may help with that uncle who wants to talk politics. Stay away from people who are sick as much as possible to keep from getting sick yourself. If you or other family members are sick, avoid others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- Vaccinations are essential to prevention. Family members age 6 months and older should get the annual influenza vaccination. Vaccinations also protect your children against other respiratory illnesses including pneumonia and whooping cough. In Colorado, influenza is the most common cause of hospitalizations for children. The rotavirus vaccine, one of the routine infant vaccinations, helps protect against one of the most common causes of gastroenteritis.
- Children lick many things. Wash toys, food-contact surfaces and play surfaces with hot, soapy water.
- Do the Dracula cough-cover. Always cover your coughs and sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and teach your children to do the same.
- Wash those hands! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds — this is about as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. It’s especially important to wash before using the bathroom and before eating or preparing meals.
- Don’t be a Typhoid Mary or a Norovirus Norbert. When you are preparing food, make sure you follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s holiday food safety
- Make cooking with children fun…and uneventful. Lest your Instagram cooking-with-kids story also feature a trip to the urgent care, follow these kitchen safety tips for cooking with kids.
- Decorating pitfalls — and I don’t mean holiday sweaters. Avoid common holiday decoration injuries like glass ornament swallowing, toxic plant ingestion and burns by following tips here.
Cooking with your children can be fun, but be sure to keep it safe.
We know that not all holiday interactions are stress-free, and hopefully this list has not added more worries. If so, here are some tips for warding off holiday stress with your kids.
If you’re not sure whether your child needs to be seen by their regular doctor or more urgently, call Children's Hospital Colorado's ParentSmart Healthline™ at 720-777-0123 to speak with a registered nurse 24/7 who can help guide you. This guide helps you determine whether your child’s illness can be treated at an urgent care or emergency department. Children’s Hospital also has a free mobile app with helpful resources on assessing your child's illness.
Guest contributor: Marion R. Sills, MD, MPH, professor, CU School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. Reach her on Twitter @MarionRSills