7 ways to keep your holidays healthy

Sick SantaMake sure that your kids aren't sick when Santa comes swooping down the chimney this year. There are steps you can take to attempt to keep your kids healthy during the holiday season.

Here are some tips from several area pediatricians.

Eat healthy. Minimize tummy aches by providing healthy snacks like fruit, vegetable and cheese alongside the holiday treats, suggests Jennifer Redmond, a nurse practitioner with Annapolis Pediatrics, who works out of the Annapolis and Kent Island offices. A poor diet can contribute to fatigue and increase the risk of illness, agrees Dr. Zaneb K. Beams, who has a private practice in Columbia. Redmond also suggests replacing butter and oil with applesauce to cut back on fat and replacing white flour with half whole-wheat flour for added fiber and nutrients when baking treats.

Update vaccinations. Make sure your child has had a flu shot and is up-to-date on routine immunizations, says Dr. Sam Libber of Annapolis Pediatrics, who practices in Annapolis and Severna Park offices. “Family gatherings, airports and shopping malls are all places germs like to mingle, so protect yourself and your kids by getting a flu vaccine,” Redmond agrees.

Practice healthy habits. Make sure kids cough and sneeze into their elbows and frequently wash their hands. At gatherings, prepare plates for younger children to discourage “double dipping” — taking a bite of something and putting it back in a dip or sauce. Don't share drinks or utensils since people can be contagious before they know they are sick, Redmond adds.

Get enough rest. “With all the holiday parties, recitals and other festivities, families can push their limits too far,” Beams says. Lack of sleep and rest can increase the likelihood of illness and contribute to bad behavior.

Stick with routines. A disruption in regular routines is the main reason kids suffer from holiday stress, according to Redmond. Changes in routine can also cause safety issues for babies and toddlers if safeguards are not maintained, Libber says.

Avoid crowded situations. Libber suggests avoiding places like indoor mall playgrounds where many kids are in physical contact with one another. Germs can easily be spread this way.

Stay physically active. Go outside for a walk, play an active game, jump in the leaves or go sledding, Redmond says. Limit television ­— and when a holiday special is on, get up and move during commercials. Put on holiday music and dance around the house, she says. Exercise helps with sleep, managing stress and keeps the body strong and healthy and able to fight infection, Beams agrees.

For ways to ensure a safe holiday click here.