The holiday season is supposed to be a time to celebrate, eat good food, enjoy friends and family, and take some time away from work. At some point or another, most people have found that the holidays are also a time when you’re under the weather. There are a number of reasons that happens. A change in weather doesn’t help, nor do those strolls around the mall with germs flying everywhere. Other factors could be stress or a change in routine. Being aware of the most common illnesses during the holidays can help you take some steps that allow you to protect yourself from getting sick. Who knows, maybe it will help you and your family stay healthy and happy throughout the holidays.
1. Cold and Flu
It’s no surprise that cold and flu are prevalent during the holidays. During the holidays, people tend to gather in large groups, often in enclosed spaces, which increases the likelihood of spreading respiratory viruses like the common cold. But being around the germs isn’t the only reason people get a cold. Holiday stress, travel fatigue, and disrupted sleep patterns can all suppress the immune system, making it more susceptible to infection.
2. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
With shorter days and longer nights, many people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the holidays. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) usually appears as depression that happens during the change in seasons, mostly during winter, though it can also happen in the spring. It is believed to be caused by changes in your brain’s internal clock and melatonin levels. Signs of SAD include feeling down, hopeless, and easily annoyed; losing interest in things you usually enjoy; having low energy; and experiencing changes in your sleep and appetite.
3. Food Poisoning
A full spread of food wrapping around the counters is part of the holiday tradition, but there’s an illness lurking if the right precautions aren’t taken. Each year, almost 50 million people get some sort of food-borne illness, and there’s no better way to ruin your holiday with family and friends than to deal with the symptoms of food poisoning. The CDC has a full list of steps you should take to minimize the risk for food poisoning during the holiday season, including what kind of eggs to use, how to properly thaw a turkey, and separating your food properly.
4. Intoxication and Substance Abuse
There are a number of reasons people abuse alcohol and other substances during the holidays. One reason is boredom – there’s nothing better to do than sit around and sip on a favorite cocktail. But there’s another reason: Many people feel an increased level of stress during this time of year, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The heightened pressure to meet social expectations, coupled with financial strain and the emotional turmoil of unresolved conflicts, can trigger feelings of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Then, add in the increased availability of alcohol during the holidays, and that can lead to excessive consumption. The results of over-indulgence speak for themselves. From general feelings of illness to the increased risk of people who drive under the influence, intoxication and substance abuse is heightened during the holidays.
5. Accidents and Injuries
Whether it’s getting on a busy roadway with drivers distracted by Christmas music, or even the small knife used to open a difficult box, the holidays are a time when people are at an increased risk of accidents and injuries. According to UCLA Health, there are a number of injuries and accidents that happen during the holidays season, which tends to result in an increase in emergency room visits. Some of those injuries come from falls, or new toys, or even fires that can happen from space heaters or kitchens.
While the holidays are a time for celebration, understanding some of the health risks associated with this time of year is important to having the most enjoyable time with friends and family.