The health and safety of you and your loved ones is our priority. While the holiday season, and its accompanying winter conditions, can create added challenges, there’s much you can do to prepare. By taking important precautions, paying attention to potential hazards, and reducing harms, you can Activate Health and have a safer holiday season. Below are seven ways you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe this holiday season, plus links to great resources for further reading. Let’s get started.

Get vaccinated it’s respiratory illness season!

Each fall and winter, we can expect that viruses will be circulating in our communities, and this year is no different. The BC Centre for Disease Control has reported a spike in cases of influenza (flu), rising rates of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and a steady occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). Getting yourself and your loved ones vaccinated for influenza and COVID-19 is one of the best ways you can Activate Health this holiday season. The more people who are vaccinated in our community, the more overall protection we’ll have to keep more people safe, and this is particularly necessary for those who are more vulnerable such as children.

Person holding child who just got vaccinated, looking happily at nurse

Learn more about prevention measures and treating children for respiratory illness.

Use your best judgment COVID-19 safety

While it may feel that we’re in a much better place than we were this time last year, COVID-19 is still with us. Like all respiratory viruses, we can expect to see more cases this time of year as we spend more time indoors with others. Lack of airflow and circulation in closed spaces can make the virus spread more quickly and easily from person to person. As well as getting vaccinated, you can mitigate your risk of COVID-19 while spending time indoors with others by wearing a well-fitted mask that fits snugly around your nose and mouth. Masks are now a personal choice, but it’s a good practice to always have one with you if you need it.

Two people on airplane wearing masks sitting side by side looking at each other

Learn more about staying safe while spending time with others.

Practice good food safety prevent foodborne illness

Whether you’re roasting poultry, storing leftovers, or hosting a potluck, you’ll want to avoid the spread of bacteria to help keep yourself and your loved ones safe from foodborne illnesses like Salmonella infection. There are many ways to keep pathogenic bacteria at bay such as ensuring your food is cooked properly, washing your hands before preparing food, and refrigerating food correctly. But there are many more!

Three young children baking

Learn more about how to practice good food safety this holiday season.

Practice good home safety minimize safety hazards

Holiday decorations like lights and trees can make our home merry and bright, but they also come with the potential for safety hazards. Extra cords that lay across walking paths can cause tripping. Overloaded circuits can cause a fire. Even well-intentioned toys and gifts can be health and safety hazards. By learning a few basic indoor/outdoor home safety practices, you can greatly minimize hazards in and around your home for yourself, your loved ones, and your holiday visitors.

Person stringing holiday lights on wreath

Learn more about how to practice good home safety this holiday season.

Drive sparingly and safely if you do

Rain, snow, and sleet on the road definitely make driving during the winter more challenging and riskier. Keeping ourselves, our passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers and bike riders on the road safe becomes harder as weather conditions worsen throughout various parts of BC. While it’s best to avoid driving during inclement weather, ensuring your vehicle is prepared for winter conditions and that all of your passengers are wearing their seatbelts, are a few of the best ways to stay safe. But there are more!

Person driving car in snow

Learn more on how to best prepare for poor driving conditions in the winter.

Respect the ice, ice, baby avoid falls and injuries at any age

Last month was Fall Prevention Month, and while the focus is often on older adults, everyone, regardless of age is susceptible to falls and the potential injuries that can result. Using proper footwear, ensuring walking paths are dry and clear, and making sure you have good vision are some key ways to prevent falls. Skiing, snowboarding, and ice hockey, are just a few of the most popular winter sports for British Columbians. Using the right equipment and wearing a helmet are good starts, but there are plenty more ways to stay injury-free this winter!

Person walking through snow with dog

Learn more about how you can stay injury-free when enjoying your favourite winter sport.

Reduce harms safer substance use

The toxic drug poisoning crisis in BC was declared a public health emergency in 2016, and in August 2022, the BC Government reported 10,000 lives lost—deaths that were preventable. We and our partners are working hard to support urgent solutions to save lives, but in the meantime, it remains a public health crisis that we must continue to pay attention to, especially this holiday season when there may be an increase in substance use. Toxic illicit drugs are circulating in BC, and whether one has consumed drugs for many years, or it’s their first time, anyone can be susceptible to drug poisoning. 

People at a holiday party

Learn more about safer drug use to reduce harm this holiday season.

For those in our community without shelter, harsh winter conditions and extreme cold can result in many injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite, which can also lead to death. The ‘season of giving’ also calls on us to be kind to others who need our help. When you see someone unsheltered, consider directing them to a nearby warming centre where they can get some reprieve, or offer some form of support that feels appropriate for the context. 

Making a commitment to Activate Health this holiday season means doing your part to create a healthy, safe space for yourself, your loved ones, and your community. The holidays aren’t merry and bright for everyone, but if you are able to take the precautions shared above to stay safe, injury-free, and healthy, we hope you will do what you can for your loved ones and community.

From the team at the Pacific Public Health Foundation we wish you a happy (and safe) holiday season!

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