THE BLOG
12/03/2014 04:49 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2015

Doctor's Perspective: Family Health Tips for the Holiday Season

Every year the holidays are an exciting time that brings family and friends together to celebrate and reflect on the past year. This family-filled time can also bring the potential for spreading illness, but there are a few simple steps you can take now to keep you and your family healthy and happy during the holidays and kick off the new year right.

Get your regular check-up

Regular health check-ups, which can be done by your primary health care provider, are a good way to screen for and prevent health issues before they escalate. It is a good time to talk to your health care provider about health screenings for such things as high blood pressure and cholesterol, and check-ups are an important key to keeping you and your family on a healthy track [1]. For more information on why regular check-ups are important and to learn more about the tests and exams to keep in mind, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) family health check-ups page: http://www.cdc.gov/family/checkup/index.htm.

Make sure your family is up to date with vaccinations

Vaccines are the best way to prevent and protect against infectious diseases such as pertussis, also known as whooping cough, as well as diphtheria and measles. In recent years, some of these vaccine-preventable diseases have been on the rise in the U.S. Therefore, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider about the vaccination schedule for you and your family to make sure you are up to date.

Keep in mind that vaccinations are not just for kids and seniors. There are vaccinations recommended for adults, including the adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccination. The CDC advises that adolescents receive the Tdap vaccine at 11-12 years then again every 10 years following [2,3]. It is essential for adults, especially new and expecting parents, to stay current with their Tdap vaccine to help protect their infants from potentially fatal diseases like pertussis. In fact, researchers found that when it could be determined how an infant caught pertussis, family members were responsible for spreading the disease to the baby in up to 80 percent of cases [4]. More specifically, parents were responsible up to 50 percent of the time [5]. For more information on pertussis visit SoundsofPertussis.com and for the CDC's current vaccine schedules visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules.

Eat healthy

Eating healthy around the holidays is certainly not easy, but balance and moderation are key. To stave off those holiday pounds, try a few strategies such as: use a smaller plate, fill your plate with vegetables and salad before going onto the main course, and eat slower. Also, try to limit the intake of fats, salt and sugary foods [1]. If you're preparing food, be sure to wash your hands and cooking area often, cook foods to the proper temperature and refrigerate all perishable foods [1]. For more nutrition and healthy eating tips, visit www.eatright.org.

Be active

Colder weather in many parts of the country this time of year makes it more difficult to get outside to exercise and be active. But it is recommended that adults are active for two and a half hours a week while kids and teens are active for at least one hour a day [1]. After the big holiday meal, get the whole family to walk around the neighborhood, build a snowman, or play ball in the backyard. Regular physical activity helps improve your overall health and lowers your risk for many chronic diseases [6]. The CDC has more information, including physical activity guidelines here: www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines.

As a mom, I understand the importance of keeping yourself and your family as healthy as possible. There are many different precautions you can take to stay on top of your family's health, and these tips are just a few ways you can get started. For more tips visit the CDC's Family Health pages: www.cdc.gov/family/healthyoccasions.

Dr. Dolan is an obstetrician gynecologist and clinical geneticist and she serves as a medical advisor to March of Dimes. Sounds of Pertussis® is a national education campaign from Sanofi Pasteur and the March of Dimes to help raise awareness about the potential dangers of pertussis and the importance of adult Tdap vaccination. Please visit www.SoundsofPertussis.com to learn more about pertussis and the Sounds of Pertussis Campaign.

References:

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Holiday Health and Safety Tips. http://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/index.htm. Accessed November 4, 2014.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2014 Recommended Immunizations for Children from 7 Through 18 years old. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/who/teens/downloads/parent-version-schedule-7-18yrs.pdf. Accessed November 4, 2014.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2014 Recommended Immunizations for Adults: By Age. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-schedule-easy-read.pdf. Accessed November 4, 2014.

4. Bisgard KM, Pascual FB, Ehresmann KR et al. Infant pertussis: who was the source? Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004;23(11):985-9. https://www.vaxserve.com/assets/pdf/library/infant_pertussis_source.pdf. Accessed November 4, 2014.

5. Wendelboe AM, Njamkempo E, Bourillon A et al. Transmission of Bordetella pertussis to young infants. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2007;26(4):293-9. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/555372. Accessed November 4, 2014.

6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How much physical activity do you need? http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/index.html. Accessed November 4, 2014.