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Cold and flu season is upon us

It’s that time of year when there’s back to back holidays and it’s hard to tell what day it is or where you’re supposed to be. It’s also the time of year that people are traveling and spending time with family and friends sharing food, fun and memories.

Besides sharing your time with loved ones, chances are you’re also sharing germs with those around you. It seems that at every family get together or New Year’s party, there is someone that is sneezing, coughing or you find out that someone is recovering from a stomach bug.

To make matters worse, Minnesota has been experiencing influenza outbreaks, which puts a damper on holiday festivities. Influenza has hit Scott County schools hard, with one school — Shakopee West Middle School — reporting nearly 30 percent of students out with flu-like symptoms on December 16. Officials at the Minnesota Department of Health said the active strain of influenza can affect who is getting sick.

“[Influenza] B is the dominant strain, and we know that when B is circulating we see a lot more disease in children and young adults, and that’s really what’s playing out this year,” said Kris Ehresmann, Director of Infectious Disease at the Minnesota Health Department.

Ehresmann advises people to think of those most vulnerable to the flu, such as young children and the elderly, as they decide whether to show up to holiday gatherings sick.

A family member of mine has been effected by whooping cough, of all things, recently. It’s believed to have been contracted from someone in public that was out and about that shouldn’t have been out and about in public. So what are some ways that you can stay healthy but still enjoy the holidays?

•Eat healthy meals and avoid foods that compromise your immune system. It’s hard to avoid all those goodies, but try to squeeze in an apple or two in between all those cookies!

•Exercise regularly: Aerobic exercise increases your body’s virus-fighting cells. Shoveling snow is an excellent work out! •Sleep well: Most adults need between seven and nine hours a night. That left over turkey can be put to good use!

•Practice hand hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It is especially important to wash up before preparing food, eating and touching your face. You should also wash your hands after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing and being around someone who is ill. Lysoling your relatives is frowned upon though.

•Get vaccinated this year: A yearly flu shot not only protects you, it protects others from the potentially deadly flu virus.

•Stay home if you or your immediate family is sick. Share the love with your family and friends, not illnesses. It should be noted that staying home to avoid your relatives may help, but it’s probably not recommended for remaining Grandma’s favorite.

It’s inevitable that everyone will experience some sort of illness during cold and flu season. Using these steps will help keep your loved ones healthier and you.

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Address: 201 N. Jefferson
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