The holidays are officially here, and we’re setting up seasonal decorations, lighting delicious-smelling candles, and cueing up festive playlists as we type. Amid all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to bypass healthy habits and move hygiene further down the priority list—that is, until a virus sets in and you end up sniffling on the couch. To get ahead of sickness this year, we assembled top tips for staying out of germs’ way and keeping your immune system strong.

We’ll go into detail about each one further down in this post, but if you’re in a rush, here’s the 5-second version of how to stay healthy during the holidays:

  1. Wash your hands frequently and well to get rid of germs. 
  2. Have plenty of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer available to cleanse surfaces and hands, particularly when you’re in public places, traveling, and hosting.
  3. Drink water often.
  4. Get moving—exercise boosts your virus-fighting cells.
  5. Try to get eight hours of sleep per night and minimize stress.
  6. Reduce foods and drinks that weaken your immune system (sugar, alcohol) and stock up on those that boost it (pumpkin, broccoli, chickpeas, etc.)

Want to learn more germ-defying habits and tricks? Keep reading:

Disinfect, sanitize, wash—repeat

Whether you’re on a plane, out shopping for holiday gifts and food, hitting the gym, inviting groups over for Friendsgiving, or checking into a hotel, make sure you’re keeping surfaces, bodies, and devices clean.

Use disinfectant wipes to:

  • Clean the seat, tray, buckles, pocket, and other areas around or on your plane seat. BONUS tip: aisle seats are a prime spot to get germs from stretchers and bathroom goers, so consider picking the window seat—both for the view and your health.
  • Wipe down your devices, especially if you’ve pulled them out in public places or passed them around to entertain children. You may also want to give a quick wipe to your credit cards and IDs that get touched by cashiers, TSA agents, bartenders, and others.
  • Maintain sanitary door handles, light switches, remote controls, and other commonly touched but not commonly cleaned items—both at home and in hotels.
  • Get the germs off that shopping cart handle. Most grocery stores have a bucket of wipes set out for that purpose, but you may want to keep a pack in your bag as an extra precaution.
  • Ensure you’re not sharing sweat—or viruses—with your fellow exercisers. Thoroughly disinfect public gym equipment both before and after you use it.

Keep hand sanitizer accessible to:

  • Quickly clean your hands after you board a plane, take a trip to the mall or grocery store, or hug your favorite cousin. While handwashing is ideal, sanitizer can help kill many common germs and keep you healthy.
  • Share the germ-free love. Offer to squeeze a bit of your sanitizer on the hands of your friends, kids, colleagues, or plane seatmates.

Wash your hands:

  • Before and after eating
  • Before, during, and after preparing food for self and others
  • After using the restroom—public or not
  • After finishing a workout
  • After getting off the plane (we also recommend changing your clothes and showering after a ride in the sky)
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After taking out the garbage
  • Really anytime! Washing your hands thoroughly is one of the best ways to stay healthy

Build up your immune system

  • Curb your sugar intake: Eating or drinking high quantities of simple sugars can decrease your immune system’s ability to fight viruses and bacteria. While you’re at it, try your best to limit alcohol, refined carbs, and processed foods as well.
  • Take in foods that boost your immune system, including leafy greens for Vitamin C, sunflower seeds for Vitamin E, chickpeas for Vitamin B6, pumpkin for vitamin A, broccoli for Selenium, and more.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Drink water; use nasal spray; anything to keep your system flushing toxins and your mucous membranes from getting dry. BONUS tip: Try not to drink tap water/ice on planes. Past tests have found nasty germs in plane H2O.
  • Immunize properly: Ensure you have this season’s flu vaccine.
  • Get sleep and minimize stress: The holidays can be a challenging and busy time, from end-of-year work pressure to uncomfortable family functions to late-night present wrapping sessions. Do your best to get eight hours of sleep and not burn yourself out in your personal or professional life.
  • Maintain a regular pattern of exercise: Whether it’s a brisk walk, a sweaty yoga class, or a heavy lifting routine, ensure that you are consistently getting your blood pumping. Aerobic exercise boosts your virus-fighting cells. 

One final sanitation recommendation: For those who celebrate Christmas, a visit to Santa may be a yearly adventure. While we know adults and kids alike are often eager to see the jolly, white-haired fellow, his red suit can hold some serious germs. Given the volume of people coming through Santa’s line, make sure you have that hand sanitizer at the ready—and consider washing your and/or your child’s clothing afterward.

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