How to Spend the Holidays with Your Family - Not in the Doctor's Office

December 10, 2015

Teira Gunlock

At some point in our lives, many of us have that dreaded holiday experience: going to sleep on Christmas Eve (waiting for Old Saint Nick’s visit), hoping to survive the chaos of family dinners and possible snowy roads as we travel home the next day.

But while visions of sugar plums dance in our heads, something happens. That scratchy, burning sore throat sets in––making it hard to swallow. Your nose is suddenly stuffed, and you jerk awake feeling miserable and feverish.

According to Rx for Travel Health, a national travel survey discovered a striking 63% of people get sick while traveling, and the vast majority of these illnesses are easily preventable. This means that not only are you at increased risk of injury due to holiday decorating, but you're at increased risk of illness due to holiday travel.

The good news (and it's hard to believe there's good news when you're sick during the holidays) is that First Stop Health telemedicine benefits can help you figure out the next steps without missing a beat or even leaving the house.

1. Lift with your legs

At First Stop Health, we’ve had many holiday calls resulting from heaving a turkey out of the oven. People tend to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle and strain necks/pull muscles lifting presents and carrying the freshly cut Christmas tree to the house.

To avoid injury, bend at the knees and keep the back straight when lifting heavy items. Never twist your back while carrying a heavy load, and work together for awkward items like the Christmas tree.

2. Use common sense when on a ladder or the roof

There are as many as 15,000 injuries annually in the U.S. alone as a result of holiday decorating. You can prevent injury related to roof or ladder work by wearing appropriate footwear (no sandals or open-toed shoes) and setting up the ladder properly. To set up your ladder safely:

  • Find the safest place to set up your ladder by looking for dry, level ground.
  • Ensure the brace is locked into place and the legs feels sturdy before climbing.
  • Always have a spotter to hold the ladder while you climb it and keep an eye out for hazards or missed steps.
  • Never stand on the top of the ladder or use the paint tray to bear weight or gain balance.

3. Wash your hands 

Many holiday emergency room visits are the result of infections like common colds, strep throat, pink eye, and influenza, all of which can be prevented by appropriate hand-washing.

Washing your hands before and after meal preparation, before and after using the restroom, and after smoking, coughing, or sneezing can prevent the spread of infection. To ensure most harmful bacteria and viruses are removed through hand-washing, follow these guidelines:

  • Dampen the hands before applying soap.
  • Apply soap generously and scrub your hands together for at least 20 seconds, taking special care to wash the thumbs, under the fingernails, between the fingers, under rings, and all surface of the hands and lower forearms.
  • Rinse thoroughly and leave the water running while you grab a paper towel. Dry your hands thoroughly and then use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the bathroom door to prevent recontamination.

It may seem a little strange to make your hand-washing routine this much more intentional, but we promise it cuts your chance of getting sick down remarkably!

4. Drink responsibly

The holidays are often a time to let your hair down with friends and family –– which often includes cocktails and a few bottles of wine. But this actually results in an increase in emergency room visits for falls, lacerations, car accidents, or alcohol poisoning.

If you do choose to have a few drinks, eat before you begin drinking. Make arrangements ahead of time for a designated driver to prevent getting behind the wheel, and help visiting friends and family do the same.

5. Use caution on the road

The highways are significantly more congested during the holiday season––and in many parts of the country, the weather is known for making travel tough during this time of year.

Always check the weather before leaving for the holidays and be flexible with your plans if you anticipate blizzard or icy conditions. Drive defensively, prepared for other drivers' errors. You might be a great driver, but you’re also sharing the road with thousands of others who you can’t be sure of!

Telemedicine Benefits to the Rescue

Even with these healthy habits consistently in place, accidents happen and illnesses strike. If you do fall off a ladder (and it’s not a definite emergency), but you’re not sure what the next course of action should be (e.g., just ice? Advil? Urgent care?), use telemedicine.

If you’ve come down with the flu, call within the first 48 hours of symptoms, and we can prescribe an antiviral to help tackle it right away.

Spend your holidays trimming the tree and opening gifts, not in the emergency room! Avoid activities that may compromise your holiday season, and if you do need medical care, use your telemedicine benefits to get great treatment.

You’ll get on with your day in just a few minutes (with no cost to you).  

Originally published Dec 10, 2015 1:00:00 PM.