2:23 AM EST, December 15, 2012
As families travel and get together during the holiday season, a lot of opportunities for illness arise.
"When you're under stress, you're more likely to get sick," said Dr. Michael Knapp, with Avera Aberdeen Family Physicians. "You're trying to get the wrapping done, getting the family together and trips planned, and you might be worrying about bills."
All those events add stress, he said. At the very least, it will affect sleep patterns and make it difficult to get the recommended eight hours of sleep.
"When you're restful, it's easier for your body to recover and replenish yourself," he said.
There should be heightened awareness of some common-sense things as people get together for holiday gatherings, he said.
"These are things we teach our kids in kindergarten and can sometimes forget about," Knapp said. "Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze."
He said people are most often dealing with viral illnesses like the cold and flu during this time of the year. That means having symptoms like a runny nose, watery eyes and sore throat that will last five-10 days and can't be cured with antibiotics.
"You just be patient and tolerant of those symptoms," he said.
The same common sense applies to children, said Dr. Tanu Singhal, a pediatrician with Sanford Children's at Sanford Health Aberdeen Clinic.
"Viral illnesses hit children first," she said. "If a child is really sick, they should stay home from school because it's better to take a day off instead of getting a whole class sick."
Infants are also more vulnerable to viral illnesses too, so visitors should remember to take care when handling them.
Singhal and Knapp said frequent handwashing is the key to avoiding viral illness and that other remedies can't replace its effectiveness.
"Whenever you go do something that exposes you to bacteria or germs, you should wash your hands," Singhal said. "Sometimes people are lazy about handwashing."
Carrying hand sanitizer is also a good alternative, Knapp said.
It's not too late to get that flu shot either. Singhal and Knapp have both seen cases of the flu in their respective offices already, but peak flu season has yet to arrive.
"It takes about two weeks to develop immunity," Knapp said. "If you anticipate traveling by air or car, it's a good idea to keep in mind."
Because last year's flu season was relatively mild, Singhal said, doctors are expecting this year's to be worse.
"Those who have infants at home should think about getting vaccinated because they're very vulnerable and haven't had their own flu shot yet if they're younger than 6 months," she said.
Knapp said it's a good idea to take Vitamin C to help jumpstart the immune system too.
Regulating the atmosphere inside the house is helpful.
Singhal recommends getting a humidifier to help alleviate dry air caused by having the heat on constantly.
"External humidifiers need to be cleaned frequently, however, because they are breeding grounds for bacteria," she said.
She said harder Aberdeen water can leave deposits in the appliance, She recommends using a vinegar solution for regular cleaning.
Knapp said it's a good idea for those with respiratory problems to remember to also change out air filters once they expire.
Use warm, soapy water and scrub for 20-30 seconds or the time it takes to hum "Happy Birthday" twice.
Scrub between fingers and under nails.
Use hand sanitizer, and rub it between your hands until it is dry.