The holidays can be one of the busiest times of the year, so take a few moments to review these tips to ensure you and your loved ones have a safe and healthy holiday season:

1. Wash your hands often This may seem like a "no-brainer," but hand washing may be one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infections like the common cold or flu. It's important to wash your hands any time you may come into contact with infectious agents like bacteria or viruses. This may include after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, using the rest room, touching household pets, preparing food, before you eat, or after you have touched garbage. Proper hand washing technique includes washing with soap and water, while scrubbing them together for at least 20 seconds. If you're in a situation where you do not have access to soap and running water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the next best option.

2. Handle and prepare food safely Whether you're in charge of preparing a holiday ham or simply slicing vegetables, proper food handling techniques help prevent the risk of food-related illness. Be sure to wash your hands prior to working with food, and in between handling raw meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs. In addition, make sure that all surfaces which come in contact with food are cleaned thoroughly, such as cutting boards, knives, or counter tops. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be rinsed prior to use and all meats be cooked to the appropriate temperature before serving. Also, to prevent holiday leftovers from spoiling, refrigerate foods promptly and check food storage guidelines.

3. Stay warm If you plan on staying indoors this holiday season, be sure to check that your heating system is in good working condition and your fire and carbon monoxide detectors are functional. For those headed outdoors, wear appropriate clothing such as winter coats, hats, gloves, and boots which can help prevent frostbite and hypothermia. For those of you who may be traveling by car, consider packing a winter emergency kit which includes blankets, food and water, a flashlight, first-aid kit, and extra auto accessories. Weather forecasts may change rapidly, so heed weather alters and warnings in order to stay safe!

4. Eat healthy and be active It may be easy to over-indulge during the holidays as savory meals and sweet treats are a staple at festive gatherings. However, by practicing portion control and making healthy food choices, the holiday season does not need to be associated with an expanding waist-line and weight gain. Consider swapping out sugary-desserts for fresh fruits, or limiting your intake of foods rich in fats or salt.

5. Manage stress The added pressures of travel, last-minute shopping, and entertaining during the holiday season may cause some increased stress. Stress can affect both our emotional and physical health, so we encourage you to take care of yourself by eating well-balanced meals, getting enough sleep, talking with friends and family, and taking time to relax.

Interested in additional health tips? Check out "The 12 Ways to Health," holiday song by the Centers for Disease Control! It features the topics we've discussed above, plus some additional healthy habits.

References:
1. Centers for Disease Control

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