7 tips for a safe, healthy holiday season

Monday, December 10, 2018

Dr. Julia Murray

Put health and safety at the top of your to-do list this holiday season. It’s a wonderful time of year to count your blessings and take stock in your health as temperatures continue to drop. WVU Urgent Care physician Julia Murray, DO, suggests these health and safety tips to help you stay well during the holidays.

1. Get a flu shot.
No one likes to be sick, especially during the holidays. Make an appointment with your primary care provider or visit one of our four WVU Urgent Care locations (no appointment necessary) for a flu shot. Contrary to the popular myth, the flu shot does not make you sick. Any minor side effects from the vaccine are more tolerable than the flu itself. It can take up to two weeks for your body to build immunity to the flu after getting the shot, so the earlier you get a vaccine during flu season, the lower your chances of getting sick.

2. Stay active, even in cold weather.
Don’t slack on your exercise routine just because it’s wintertime. Layer up, and get active for at least 30 minutes a day three times per week. As long as conditions aren’t too icy, there are several benefits to continuing to exercise outdoors when it’s cold out. The vitamin D you get from even a small dose of sunlight may improve your mood. Staying active during cold and flu season may also boost your immunity and help prevent illness. If the weather is too cold or snowy to exercise outside, engage in indoor sports, exercise at a gym or community center, or try online exercise videos at home.

3. Seek treatment for depression.
Talk with your primary care provider if you’re experiencing lasting symptoms of depression or anxiety that do not get better with time. Symptoms of depression can worsen during winter time and may include decreased energy or fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. If left untreated, some mental health conditions can affect your personal relationships, impact your job, and disrupt other areas of your life. Depression is a medical condition that can be treated successfully with a combination of therapies, including talk therapy and medication.

4. Shovel snow safely.
Thousands of injuries occur from improper snow shoveling each year. Take it slow, and stretch before you begin. Know your own physical limits, and take breaks often, if needed, to limit overexertion. Consider shoveling only fresh, powdery snow because it’s lighter or pushing the snow with the shovel, instead of lifting it. If you are lifting snow with a shovel, only partially fill the shovel, or use a small shovel. Always remember to lift with your legs, not your back.

5. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Cooking fires are the most common cause of home fires. Do not leave cooking unattended and check on it frequently. Regularly check and change batteries in any smoke detectors throughout your home. Carbon monoxide detectors are also needed to prevent exposure to this odorless, colorless gas. Stoves, gas ranges, or heating systems can leak this harmful gas and cause headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, or even death from carbon monoxide poisoning. Regular smoke alarms do not detect carbon monoxide. Test carbon monoxide detectors regularly, and replace them at least every five years.

6. Avoid holiday decoration hazards.
Be careful about where you display holiday plants, like holly, poinsettias, and mistletoe because they can be hazardous to children and pets if consumed. Use flameless candles to prevent burns or accidents. Inspect strings of decorative lights, and do not use any with frayed or cracked wires or broken/damaged sockets. Unplug electrical cords that aren't in use, and keep electrical cords out of reach of children. Work as a team if you are hanging lights or decorations in an area that is difficult to reach, and use a ladder with someone supporting the base.

7. Visit your primary care doctor.
We’re here to help you manage any health challenges this holiday season and year round. Schedule an annual visit with a WVU Medicine primary care provider to maintain good health and wellness. If you’re facing a chronic health condition during the holidays, communicate with your doctor about the best plan for you to eat right, minimize pain, and manage any symptoms. WVU Urgent Care is also available in Morgantown, Fairmont, and McHenry, MD, to assist with any unexpected conditions that are not life threatening, including cough/cold, diarrhea, ear infections, or fever. Let us help you stay well or get you back to good health this holiday season!

WVU Urgent Care locations and hours:

Suncrest – Morgantown 
Seven days a week: 7:45 am – 8 pm

Evansdale – Morgantown
Monday – Friday: 7:45 am – 8 pm
Saturday: 9:45 am – 4 pm

WVU Medicine Outpatient Center – Fairmont
Seven days a week: 7:45 am – 8 pm

McHenry, MD
Monday – Friday: 9 am – 7 pm
Saturday: 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday: Noon – 5 pm

Know before you go: WVU Medicine walk-in clinic and pharmacy holiday schedules

For questions or to make an appointment, call 855-WVU-CARE / Visit WVUMedicine.org for more about services.