Holiday Illness: The Uninvited Guest

By Christina Elston

There's no vaccination against the holidays, and many families are familiar with the head colds and stomach troubles that can accompany these celebrations. These illnesses, according to American Academy of Pediatrics spokesman Don Schiff, M.D., are simply due to togetherness. "Most of the time, we ascribe it to people being more closely together, especially family," Schiff explains.

So share tastes of your favorite holiday foods - but don't share forks (or spoons, drinking glasses, etc.). Cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze, throw away those used tissues, and wash your hands - a lot.

Other holiday ills - fatigue, headache and stomachache - are often caused by stress, best prevented through careful planning and preparation. Schiff recommends parents delegate tasks in order to remain calm. "Children in the 5 to 12 age group are generally eager to help," he says, "and they can be a great stress reducer."

Discussing plans and schedules ahead of time can make kids more comfortable. Keeping up with regular fun activities, such as music lessons or sports, can also help reassure kids.

Schiff also advises adults to have their "empathy antenna" up a little higher during the holiday season. If you aren't feeling well, take a bit of time for yourself. And pay extra attention to your child, who might not tell you if he or she is not feeling festive.

Christina Elston is the contributing health editor for United Parenting Publications. Read more health tips and updates at our Health Notes Archive