Give Gifts, Not Germs: Staying Healthy During The Busy Holiday — And Cold And Flu — Season
Getty Images/Aleksandr Zubkov

Tis the season — for germs and viruses. We are in peak cold and flu season, also one of the busiest times of year. People are packing in stores to do holiday shopping, preparing to fill up planes to travel, and congregating with loved ones again, including with plans to do so for the Christmas holiday. But with us being in the midst of cold and flu season and a new variant of COVID-19 going around, we can’t be careless.

According to the CDC, adults are likely to experience two to three colds a year, in 2019-2020, there were about 20,000 flu-related deaths, and there have been 50,422,410 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, with over 813,000 deaths. There is plenty to protect yourself from right now. So as you try to get back to spending time with family and friends and do so as the opportunity to play and dine outdoors decreases due to dropping temperatures, be careful — whether you’re vaccinated or not. We spoke with Dr. Eva Beaulieu, board-certified internal medicine hospitalist and Clorox spokesperson, to get tips on how to stay healthy and not bring the germs we may encounter outside, inside our homes.

ESSENCE: We are living in pretty hectic times. While we’re in the midst of cold and flu season, there’s also the concern about COVID and its variants. It seems there is so much to be worried about at every turn. What tips do you have for keeping ourselves and our families healthy?

Dr. Eva Beaulieu: There are a few practical steps you can take to help prevent the spread of germs that can cause illness. This includes disinfecting high-touch surfaces with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, washing your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, staying home when you feel sick, continuing to keep your distance and getting your annual flu shot.

The symptoms of a cold, flu and COVID can be similar at times. What should we do if we start to notice we’re not feeling good, have a fever and/or congestion? Pre-COVID, a lot of people just took medicine and went on to work when they needed to. Is it a good idea to stay put and quarantine no matter what we’re dealing with? 

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To prevent the spread of cold and flu and other viruses, I always recommend staying at home if you experience any cold-like symptoms. Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). COVID-19 is predominately spread through shared air, but seasonal respiratory viruses, like influenza and RSV, can spread easily through indirect and direct contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. So to stay protected from both, it’s important to remember the importance of wearing a mask when outside the home, washing our hands frequently and cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces and objects.

As we venture outside, whether to hang out with friends or we’re sending our kids to school, what are the proper precautions to not bring the germs of outside, inside? 

When entering the home after school or daycare, have a “drop zone” where you can leave school items. This includes a designated place to leave shoes, backpacks, dirty masks and other school equipment so that germs don’t get tracked through the house. In addition to regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces in the home, it’s important to wash hands frequently. For when you’re out and about, keep Clorox Disinfecting Wipes On the Go readily available to disinfect regularly touched or high-traffic areas, such as grocery cart handles, door handles, subway and train handlebars, keyboards, restroom sinks and toilets.   

As we connect with family in the midst of holiday season, what advice do you have for us to take care of them and ourselves? 

This might seem obvious, but it’s more important than ever this time of year to take care of your physical health by getting a good night’s sleep, staying hydrated and maintaining a balanced diet.