Along with the gifts and good cheer, we can also share something a lot less fun over the holidays — colds and related bugs. Here are some suggestions to help you stay healthy over the holidays and that you might also want to use when the holidays are over:

People often get sick during the holidays or right after. There are a number of good reasons. With all the preparations and travel it’s easy to miss out on sleep. Stress also seems to go hand-in-hand with this time of year. Next you have people coming together from all over bringing their bugs with them. You hug and kiss, spend lots of time indoors in close proximity so it’s easy for illness to spread.

What can you do to lessen the chance that you’ll succumb? First and foremost, try to take good care of yourself. This holds true all throughout the cold and flu season. Take it easy. Try not to rush. Do whatever works to lower your stress and get enough sleep. Wash your hands using soap and water or a hand-sanitizer. Cough into your elbow rather than into your hands. If you use a tissue or handkerchief, wash your hands/sanitize after.

If you’re travelling you might be interested to know that one of the dirtiest things in the airport are those buckets that we place our stuff in as we go through security. So after you get through security, wash your hands. Similarly, before you eat, wash your hands. You can follow the practice in Asia and wear a mask over your nose and mouth but unfortunately it may not really protect you that well.

Some other travel health tips

Please remember to take your meds (all of them) with you on board the plane. You don’t want them to get lost or misplaced, do you? Similarly, take enough for the entire time you’ll be away plus some extra in case the trip is delayed. If you are going out of Canada make certain that your meds are in their original containers with the name of the medication on them. Not only will this help to make going through security easier, not all drugs are known by the same trade name — even in the US — so if you need more, or need to be seen in a clinic, the generic name will help the team figure out what you are taking.

Similarly if you have a history of heart issues, bring a recent copy of your electrocardiogram. If you have health issues and have a recent hospital discharge or list from your doc, bring a copy of that, too.

I certainly want you to have a fun holiday and don’t want to ruin it by making you afraid to travel or spend time with family and friends, but an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. Why not be prepared — just in case.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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