What's a flu-fearing, germ-wary, over-worked and exhausted person supposed to do during the holiday (read: flu) season? Keeping up with the spirit of the holidays and partying it up in style while maintaining good health can be a challenge, but it's possible to do it all.
Add the following to your holiday list to stay healthy and happy. Then you'll be able to knock a few back with your friends and family rather than getting knocked off your feet.
1. No "Mwa Mwa." How about forgoing those handshakes and social kisses for a good ol' fist bump? Contrary to what you might believe, a study actually showed that people who greet each other with handshakes are much more likely to pass on flus, colds and stomach bugs, than cheek-kissing each other. It makes sense when you think about it, plus you have no idea what someone has been touching before you greet them. I guess this isn't perfectly adaptable advice for a work event, but for your social circle, it could be a good option!
2. Sharing is Caring? Not for everything. While sharing is one of those first "kind" lessons we learn as kids, there are exceptions. It goes without saying that there should be no sharing of eating utensils, drinking glasses, towels or other personal care items. Community food is, um, gross. Dishes of snacks that people reach into for a nibble are germ-ier than you can imagine. When serving guests, put utensils with each dish so people can spoon out or fork over the food instead of reaching their hands in. And certainly, no double dipping!
3. Avoid M.C.I.S. You can prevent M.C.I.S. -- Mistaken Cup Identity Syndrome (you know, when someone takes a cup and puts it down next to another, and then both people have to get new cups or inadvertently drink from each others?). If you are using disposables, buy cups made from better materials (labeled "compostable" or "100% recycled content," etc.). Have everyone mark their cup with a marker (get creative!). You can also use window markers to write on your glassware (it will come off in the wash, but not on your guests' hands), or better yet, a different accent coloured glass straw in everyone's drinks serving double duty as identification and eliminating those plastic straws or stir sticks. Reducing is the best "R". Recycling should not serve as justification for single use stuff.
4. Wash your hands CLEAN. The three crucial components to a good hand washing: warm water, soap, and friction (easy!). It decreases your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Wet your hands with warm water, lather well by rubbing hands together (be sure to cover all surfaces and in between fingers) while you sing the ABCs (in your head if you are tone deaf like me), or feel free to choose your favourite song. Rinse thoroughly and dry well. A cloth hand towel is the eco-friendly choice, but we're going for health-friendly at holiday parties, so recycled paper towels will do the trick (unless you have lots of cloth napkins and can do lots of laundry). Wash your hands before eating, before AND after going to the bathroom (your hands should be clean before you handle!), after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, before preparing food and after handling any raw meat/poultry/egg, and certainly a good wash is called for as soon as you come home.
5. Be Anti-Anti-Bacterial. Our culture is germ-obsessed and our obsession has encouraged a flood of products containing triclosan, a synthetic antimicrobial/antibacterial that has not proven to be more effective and has risk associated with using it. For when you cannot access water for washing, have a safe and effective hand sanitizer on hand (pun intended).
6. Take cover. Stay home when you are sick. It's the right thing to do for everyone, including you, because when your immunity is low you can pick up other germs more easily... sigh. Steep some tea, add a little manuka honey and crank up the rest, allowing your body to heal. Don't let stress undermine a quick recovery and try and enjoy your forced timeout. Yes, it's a disappointment, but your guests will be much more upset if they catch something and have to spend the rest of their holidays in bed.
7. Take cover, some more. Cover your mouth when you sneeze (with your arm, not your hand), and avoid anyone who doesn't (teach your kids too!). Will you consider bringing back the handkerchief trend?
Here's wishing that you share great times with your friends, colleagues and families without sharing your germs.
Raise a glass and celebrate life -- and do it well. Happy Holidays!