Hum bug: The flu is the holiday gift no one wants to receive

(BPT) - Is influenza on your gift list this year?

December is typically the height of the flu season and holiday parties can be a swap meet for pathogens. Holiday hugs, handshakes and conversations may include germs that will make you sick. If you are attending or hosting a party this season, you need to know how to keep your guests, family and yourself safe from infection.

“The holidays are the most social time of the year, and when people get together, germs come along too,” said Steve Zimmerman, director of healthcare services for ServiceMaster Clean. His company specializes in cleaning hospitals, offices and schools, so they are experts in infection control.

“You can’t eliminate the pathogens people may carry with them, but there are many things you can do to protect yourself and others from contamination,” he noted. “A little knowledge can help prevent a lot of illness this time of year.”

Here are the ServiceMaster Clean top seven tips for avoiding holiday flu infection:

1. Hand hygiene. Wash often and thoroughly with antibacterial soap. Also use hand sanitizer frequently and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

2. Get a flu shot. Be aware that flu vaccines may take up to two weeks to be effective, so be inoculated well before the holiday parties begin.

3. Be careful of high-touch hot zones. Some surfaces (kitchen counters, doorknobs, bathroom faucets, etc.) are touched by lots of people. Flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces for days, some bacteria for weeks! If you are hosting an event, clean hard surfaces thoroughly with a disinfectant cleaner. If you are attending an event, be aware of what you touch and practice hand hygiene.

4. Avoid close encounters. Flu pathogens can be spread by airborne water droplets. A flu-carrier in close proximity can make you ill. Keep your distance. If you are sneezing and coughing, consider staying home. If you sneeze or cough while attending an event, use “cough etiquette” — cover your mouth and nose, and use disposable tissues that you throw away immediately.

5. Drinking-glass roulette. Cups and glasses sometimes get misplaced or confused at parties. If you are unsure, get a new cup.

6. Toys and games are not always fun. Toys can be teeming with pathogens if handled by people who are ill. Hand hygiene is essential if you or your kids are passing around toys, games or gift items.

7. Mistletoe. Forget about it! Blow them a kiss instead.

Be aware of these seven hygiene tips and you’ll likely have a much happier, healthier holiday season.

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