Santa’s wish list | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

Santa’s wish list

Headline read: “CDC encourages people to wear masks to help prevent spread of COVID, flu and RSV over the holidays.” Given that restrictions have been relaxed and gatherings and reunions are inevitable, it pays to heed this advice. Bacteria or viruses that may cause either respiratory infections or foodborne illnesses may just decide to add an unsavory flavor to your festivities, so let me reiterate measures that could help prevent the spread of disease.

Wash hands. Hands are still the most common vehicle for transporting disease. Before eating, preparing food, attending to someone who is sick, sneezing or covering that unexpected cough, coming from the restroom, touching possibly contaminated surfaces, and after contact with animals, make it a habit. If visibly soiled, wash hands with soap and water diligently for 20 seconds. Keep those sanitizers on hand but out of reach of very young children.

Keep your distance. If with cough, colds, with or without fever, consciously refrain from mixing with other people. If warranted, isolate. Choose to be the odd man out. As a favor, keep that mask on and wear it properly. Respiratory viruses are easily transmitted and are self-limiting but may potentially wreak undue complications for those who are at both ends of the age spectrum, particularly the very young and the elderly, as well as those who are immunocompromised and with comorbid conditions.

Choose where and how to celebrate. Susceptibility to infection is an interplay of factors. Respiratory viruses may be transmitted via droplets or airborne through generated aerosols. Whether carried from short- or long-range distances, infectious dose, intensity/duration of exposure, proximity to an infected person, and quality of ventilation have been documented to be elements of influence. We are all moving targets and once infected are “temporary universal reservoirs.”


Get vaccinated. Stay up to date with the needed shots. Vaccination may help prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death. It’s not all about SARS-CoV-2. Globally, influenza and the dreaded measles virus, largely due to compromised coverage rates, are also currently in the running.

Cook food thoroughly and store appropriately. Foodborne illnesses have been traced to improper preparation of food and incorrect handling. Common causes of food poisoning which mainly manifest with gastrointestinal symptoms include bacteria, such as salmonella, which may contaminate raw eggs, poultry, seafood, fruits and vegetables, meat, unpasteurized milk, as well as staphylococcus mainly from generated toxins.

Ensure access to safe drinking water, and observe proper waste disposal. Do not self-medicate. In the eventuality of infection, whether respiratory or food-related, a large part of treatment will remain supportive. Antibiotics and antidiarrheal medications are best taken upon the advice of medical professionals. Improper use of anti-infectives has dire consequences, ranging from prolonged shedding of the bacteria such as in non-typhoidal salmonella, and may impact antimicrobial resistance. Ensuring adequate hydration with balanced electrolyte solutions (avoid concentrated juices, sports, or energy drinks), taking paracetamol at proper doses and intervals in the presence of fever, maintaining ample nutrition and needed rest to include judicious monitoring of your condition to observe worsening of symptoms are initial measures that may help avoid that unnecessary trip to the ER, which is best reserved for people needing more urgent care.

What I have provided are doable safety nets to guard against communicable diseases which might either be preventable but at times unavoidable. The one thing that this pandemic is constantly teaching us is that situations may be contained, but are oftentimes beyond control. While it is true that the majority of the reminders boil down to basic hygiene measures, reflect on how mere observance and practice can be the very gift of health that you can give another for Christmas.


Wishing everyone to be in the pink of health this season. Have a blessed Christmas.

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