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Neighbors of DuPage

Your path to happy, healthy holidays

by Tim Sullivan 

The 2017 holiday season starts now, from the time you start preparing for Halloween until you settle back on New Year’s Day. But for the next 90 days your life will be filled with all kinds of activities and distractions that are unique to this special time of year.

You may be taking more short trips in your car. You will be interacting in public more often. The air will be full of those germs that seem to invade us only at this time of year. You will probably be on your cell phone much more than normal. Even when you are crossing the street or going up and down stairs, your mind may be somewhere else and not paying attention. Things happen. So, this is a good time to ensure that you and your family have a safe, healthy holiday season.

Dr. Amer Alhussaini

The best way to enjoy this time of year is to stay healthy.

“Preventive care is the best medicine,” says Dr. Amer Alhussaini, Immediate Care of Westmont.

“Wash your hands frequently. Keep your hands off your face. A doorknob (for example) is a factory of germs. You open the door, touch your face, the germs get in your nose, and into your body. That’s how easy it can be to acquire an upper respiratory infection.

“Cover your cough or sneeze. Use your elbow, not your hands. You want to keep germs from becoming airborne. If you have a fever, avoid gatherings. One person with a fever can infect 20 people at a party.”

Dr. Amer says it is very important to treat symptoms early. “With the change of weather, the leaves falling down, and the rain…it creates a moldy environment. People get symptoms like an infection or cold, but a good percentage are allergic reactions to mold. It’s important to treat the early symptoms because they can lead to other illnesses like bronchitis, or pneumonia. Medications must be given within 48 hours of symptoms.”

For Halloween Dr. Amer offers this preventive tip. Discard all the candy wrappers. Wash your hands. Put all the unwrapped candy in a sealed airtight container and then you won’t have to worry about the germs from the candy wrappers. “When in doubt throw it out.”

The most common complaint that Dr. Amer sees at his Immediate Care clinic right after Halloween (and Thanksgiving) is abdominal pain from eating too much. “Limit sugar intake to one or two (pieces of candy) a day.”For Halloween Dr. Amer offers this preventive tip. Discard all the candy wrappers. Wash your hands. Put all the unwrapped candy in a sealed airtight container and then you won’t have to worry about the germs from the candy wrappers. “When in doubt throw it out.”

“The bigger issue,” says Dr. Amer, “is that too much candy will lead to dental issues, if not now, later.”

“When the snow hits, that’s another story,” Dr. Amer notes. “Slippery ground, snow, sleet, all the conditions for falls. Falls can lead to bruises, strains, even broken bones, especially in older folks. Non-slippery snow wear is a good investment.”

Should you get a flu shot and when?

Most medical professionals agree on the wisdom of the flu shot. Not all agree on when you should get that shot.

“The flu vaccine is good for about four months,” according to Dr. Amer. “The peak flu season is February–March. I like to get my flu shot in November.”

The Immediate Care Center of Westmont does not offer flu vaccine. “I refer my patients to someplace like Walgreens where their flu shot will be covered by their insurance. I could offer flu shots but it would not be fair to my patients when they can get them for less somewhere else.”

Taking preventive measures to avoid getting sick is a good start to a happy holiday season, but there’s more.

A walk in the woods is the perfect way to recharge when the days get hectic. 

Eat healthy and exercise. If you balance the holiday binging that is bound to happen with a conscious effort to eat healthy at most of your meals, you can, in a sense, have your cake and eat it, too. Reduce the fat in your “non-holiday” meals, watch the portions, drink less alcohol and exercise. While going go to a gym regularly and practicing a disciplined exercise routine are recommended, the reality is that most people don’t. However, there are many small heart healthy things you can do to stay active. Take a brisk 20 minute walk every day. Walk up and down the stairs in your home at least ten times a day. In buildings, take the stairs instead of the elevator to the second or third floor.

Relieve anxiety and stress with 20 minutes of meditation. Just 20 minutes of relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness can prove to be incredibly rejuvenating. To find out more about this “miracle pause,” just Google it. You will find countless approaches and tips for posture, breathing and thinking (mindfulness).

Take time for yourself. If you spend the next 90 days focused on others, you will drain your spirit. Take time to read a book, go to a spa, have lunch with friends, walk alone in a park.

Most professionals would agree, when you take time to exercise, meditate and have a little time for yourself, then you will be more productive with the rest of your time.

Get organized and plan your day. Planning your day can help reduce stress, especially during the holiday season. And don’t try to pack too much into your day.

Get enough rest and sleep. If you’re not careful, you will be so burned out by Thanksgiving, you won’t enjoy another day until January 2, 2018.

When you get in your car, take a deep breath and fasten your seatbelt. Remember that there are a lot of people on the road during the holiday season. And just like you, they are thinking about a lot things at the same time. If you plan carefully, you can avoid unnecessary trips. 70% of auto accidents happen within 10 miles of home. Even a little fender bender can be very stressful. Drive defensively. Don’t drink and drive!

Forgive. Forget. Smile. This is guaranteed: You won’t get through this holiday season without someone driving you crazy…long lines at the checkout; someone else not paying attention; someone snapping at you; a pedestrian crossing the street on a red light, right in front of you; a single mother with a baby in the pew in church right behind you (why doesn’t she just take that kid out of here). Always remember…there is someone out there who you are driving crazy, too. The holiday season is the best time to give the other guy a break. You can’t escape these moments, but you can get through them much easier with a smile.

Manage your spending. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s all come with added expenses…not to mention regular birthdays, football parties, seasonal holiday charitable giving and unanticipated family expenses. It is not enough to budget just for December holiday gifts (if that’s all you budget for, your credit card company will be very happy). Make a list of all of your upcoming expenses for the next 90 days. Even if you have to spend more than you want to, at least you will have planned for it. You will be glad you did.

As Dr. Amer advises, “Prevent, prevent, prevent.” Dr. Amer is talking about avoiding illness. But doesn’t the same advice apply to stress, anxiety and your overall happiness this holiday season? Stay one step ahead and you can have a wonderful, stress-free holiday season.

Tim Sullivan is the publisher of Neighbors magazines.