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Make it through the holidays without getting sick

How to make it through the holidays without getting sick

‘Tis the season for traveling, holiday feasts and quality time with extended family. It’s also cold and flu season, and unfortunately some of the festivities may increase your likelihood of becoming sick.

“In general, we see more people getting sick this time of year,” says Brian Krachman, D.O., a primary care physician at Piedmont.

How we get sick in the first place

Dr. Krachman says that during the holidays, his practice sees an increase in the number of patients with upper respiratory infections as well as strep throat and ear infections. He attributes the increase to a combination of frequent travel, exposure to large crowds, and lack of sleep.

“It’s like a herd – everyone is together. Say the person in front of you in line coughs or someone who is sick touches a doorknob. In crowded places – such as a family reunion, the mall or the airport – the likelihood is higher that there’s an active germ somewhere,” he explains. “The bitter cold is another risk factor for getting sick. Going between indoors and outdoors, hot and cold, can worsen allergies and the spread of germs.”

Preventative measures that truly work

While it’s inevitable that you’ll come in contact with germs, it is possible to prevent illness.

Wash your hands more frequently. “That’s the first thing doctors do when we come into the exam room – we wash our hands,” says Dr. Krachman. “No matter where you are, you’re going to want to have a way to clean your hands. It’s smart to bring your own hand sanitizer, especially when you’re in situations where you don’t have control of the conditions.”

Clean up your space. At the office, wipe down your keyboard, phone and mouse when you come back from lunch and at the end of the day, especially if other people are using your workstation,” he recommends. “Germs can be transmitted by touch and droplet spray from sneezes and coughs. Keep tissues handy.”

Mind your manners: Wash up before eating and drinking at a party. “You can protect yourself from getting sick by eating responsibly. When you’re with large crowds especially, wash your hands before touching and eating food,” he says.

Take care of yourself: Get plenty of rest, drink at least eight classes of water a day, stay active and eat nutritious meals. “You are more susceptible to germs if you are tired and run down,” Dr. Krachman cautions.

So, you still end up getting sick. Now what?

If despite your best efforts you end up with a sore throat, fever or body aches, don’t despair – Dr. Krachman has advice for shortening the length of your illness as well as ways to avoid spreading it to your loved ones. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may or may not need to see your doctor.

“Keep a thermometer in your home so you can monitor your temperature if you suspect you’re getting sick. For adults, a high fever is one that is above 100.5 degrees,” says Dr. Krachman. “If you’re normally healthy and still feel rundown after two to three days, see your health care provider. Some medications can shorten the duration of influenza. For bacterial infections, like ear infections or strep throat, we can prescribe antibiotics.”

If you feel generally not well, but don’t have a high fever, give it a few days and stick to “grandma’s remedies,” like chicken soup, orange juice, plenty of fluids and lots of rest.

“Give yourself a few days on over-the-counter medications, but if you’re not getting better, see your doctor so we can work through this to get you better quicker,” says Dr. Krachman. “Check with your doctor before starting these treatments because they can potentially interfere with prescription medications. Adults over the age of 65 should be especially careful as they are often on more medications.”

If severe and left untreated, the flu can lead to pneumonia or other serious complications.

“People who have heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension or poor circulation, as well as those who have had a heart attack, bypass surgery and/or a stent need to come to the doctor sooner when they are sick," he says. "They are more susceptible to catching germs.”

Finally, consider others if you are sick. Take extra precaution around those who might have a compromised immune system.  Avoid hugging or touching them and consider wearing a face mask to avoid spreading germs. By following Dr. Krachman’s tips, you can enjoy a healthy and happy holiday season.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Flu shots are available at Piedmont’s urgent care locations, primary care offices and at many pharmacies.

Dr. Krachman practices at Piedmont Physicians Roswell Road, located at 4890 Roswell Road, Suite 250 in Atlanta. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Krachman or another primary care provider online.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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