Baton Rouge, La. - Many Louisiana residents will be traveling near and far throughout the holiday season. Whether you're driving, flying or riding, as a part of our "Healthy for the Holidays" campaign, the Department of Health wants you to know that there are numerous ways to ensure you make it to and from your destination both happy and healthy.
Remember to get your flu shot. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for anyone older than six months as it is the best protection against getting the flu. Healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 - those who are not pregnant and do not have chronic illnesses - also have the option to get the live, attenuated flu vaccine through nasal spray. People should consult their health professionals regarding which option is best for them.
"The flu shot is one of the easiest ways to stay well this holiday season," said State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "We come in contact with lots of people at holiday parties and on mass transit and the flu can spread from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing and casual contact. The flu shot helps eliminate the communicable transmission of the virus."
Vaccination is always the best defense against the flu, but everyone should take part in the following practices:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If tissues are not available, cough or sneeze into your arm and not your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu, a cold or a similar illness, you should stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. Only leave your home for medical care or other necessities. This will prevent exposing others to your illness.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Another way to ensure a healthy holiday is to make wise food choices. Get-togethers around the holiday often involve meals with family and friends, but by making healthy food choices and preparing food safely, you can prevent any related illnesses. When preparing different food types such as raw meat, vegetables, dairy or grains, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly between preparing each item. Additionally, pay special attention to the surfaces foods are prepared on to avoid cross-contamination. Always read directions when preparing food and cook each item at the appropriate temperature and length of time to avoid any possible foodborne illness.
Pack a travel health kit with necessary items, including both prescription and over the counter medicines, antibacterial hand wipes or alcohol-based hand sanitizer, basic first-aid items (bandaids, gauze, ace bandage, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, cotton-tipped applicators) and a digital thermometer. These items will help keep you prepared in the case of unexpected medical emergencies.
If your holiday plans include a long car trip, pack healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables, and plenty of bottled water to help you avoid sugary drinks and sweets when you have to make stops along the way. Simple preparations like these can be truly beneficial.
Make sure that everyone riding in your car is properly restrained and in the correct seat in your car. Children aged 12 and younger should ride in the back seat, and remember to never place a rear-facing car seat in the front seat or in front of an airbag. Adults should use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short it is. Children should also be properly buckled up in a seat belt, booster seat or car seat, whichever is appropriate for their age, height and weight.
Finally, do not drink and drive. The holidays are always a time for merriment and celebration, but if you've raised a glass always use a designated driver. Before you leave for a holiday party, have the number of a cab company on hand to ensure a safe return home. When someone drinks and drives they put everyone on the road in danger.
For more tips on healthy and safe holiday travel visit http://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/.