Staying Healthy During the Holidays

20 November, 2023

What steps can one take to prevent a flu or COVID-19 outbreak this holiday season?

As you prepare for the holiday season, there are several steps you can take to prevent illness:

  • Be sure to stay up to date on the flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine, and remind your loved ones to do the same. It is optimal to get these vaccinations done at least two weeks before a large gathering to give time for them to work best.
  • If you or your family will use public transportation, consider wearing a mask.
  • Encourage everyone to wash their hands with soap and water at key moments, such as upon arrival at a gathering, before preparing food, or before and after eating.
  • Consider testing before gathering, especially if you will be around people who are at risk of severe infection.  

What can I do to protect loved ones who are most at risk of severe infection?

To maximize protection, be sure everyone is up to date on their vaccines. Before gathering, everyone can consider taking a COVID-19 test as an additional precaution. If you or anyone else feels sick, or has symptoms consistent with an upper respiratory infection, stay home.

What can I do to improve ventilation in my home during a gathering?

If the weather permits, opening windows can help drastically improve ventilation — even a small opening — and turning on a fan near the window, facing outwards, will help maintain consistent air flow (CDC, May 2023). Maintain the filters in your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems to be sure they are working at their best. Air purifiers can also be helpful to use, but air cleaning or filtration alone is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (EPA, September 2023).

What can I do to promote food safety during a gathering?

Handwashing is an important step in avoiding foodborne illness and has the added benefit of protecting against respiratory infections. If you’re serving or traveling with hot or cold food items, remember that foods are safest when kept out of the “danger zone” — classified as temperatures between 40 F and 140 F —which is the range where bacteria can quickly multiply. When you are finished eating, be sure to safely store leftovers as quickly as possible. If you’ve got additional food safety questions, the FDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET and on Thanksgiving Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET. 

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