Emily Peters
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Ways to avoid infection this Christmas

Emily Peters
Posted by
12 Dec 2016

Giving the mistletoe a miss? Avoiding the turkey leftovers? We asked you for your advice for anyone aiming to steer clear of infection throughout the festive season

For many of us, Christmas is the highlight of the seasonal calendar and a time to celebrate with our loved ones. But for anyone with a suppressed or weakened immune system, the last few weeks of December present an extra set of challenges – festive buffets, public transport and crowded shopping centres can all put you at risk of infection. 

To help you and your loved ones avoid the dreaded lurgy while enjoying time with family and friends, nine patients and family members have shared their top tips for avoiding infection. Here they are, in no particular order: 

1.    Keep germs at bay
“Avoid poorly people, kissing strangers, shaking hands and buffets!” says Helen Tait. “Use antibacterial wipes, and wash hands regularly. I’ve thankfully passed all of this, but I remember a Christmas when all of this was a reality and we were all on infection alert! Have a super Christmas.” 

Sherri Goner Feig, agrees. “Stay away from people who you think maybe sick.” she advises. “Some people don't consider people with suppressed immune systems!” 

Meanwhile, Sylvia Priest suggests “keeping a little bottle of hand sanitiser with you when you go out”.

2.    Protect your personal space
“Avoid public transport and crowded shopping malls,” recommends Elizabeth Davies, while Debbie Carol suggests steering clear of crowds altogether, if possible. 

“If you have to use crowded public transport, keep your head facing away from people where possible,” adds Erica Farmer. “I usually hold my breath when someone coughs or sneezes near me, but it’s best to remember to start breathing again after about 20 seconds!” 

We don’t advise holding your breath, but we agree that avoiding close proximity with strangers is a good idea!

3.    Drink up
Getting plenty of fluids is also important. “Apparently drinking lots can help to stop bugs hanging around,” says Andrew Roberts. “I have no scientific evidence for this, but a nurse seemed to think it was a good idea. I think she mentioned water in the conversation.” 

Sadly, a glass of wine or pint of beer is probably not what your nurses have in mind… 

4.    Look after yourself
Katie Ruane has a raft of recommendations that can help you look after yourself or a loved one this Christmas. While some of these aren’t proven to ward off infection, they may help you feel more comfortable. 

“Depending on what is safe for you, these are some potentially weird and wonderful tips:

  • boosting vitamin C levels, 
  • getting plenty of sleep,
  • wrapping up warm, 
  • turmeric, ginger and garlic, 
  • dry skin brushing, 
  • hot and cool showers, and 
  • eucalyptus, peppermint and tea tree oils,” she says.  

5.    Remember to laugh
Above all, make sure that your focus on avoiding infection doesn’t stop you from enjoying time with your family and loved ones – whether you’re at home or in hospital. “If your loved one is in hospital on Christmas day, cook them a Brussels sprout,” suggests Donna Dunn. “Explain they can’t avoid them that easily. It will lift their spirits and make them smile.” 

You can download our Dietary advice booklet for more information about food safety and advice for people with neutropenia. 

We hope that you find these tips helpful over the festive season. Please note that these are the personal opinions of the people who have contributed to this article, and this blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Ask your doctor about ways to avoid infection and to discuss what’s right for you. 

If you have any further tips or suggestions or would like to share your own experiences please feel free to leave a comment in the box below.