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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


How to prioritize your health this holiday season

Kiara Adams
CVS pharmacy, including the location on University Boulevard, offers free flu shots and an updated dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, the pharmacy is suggesting people get these vaccines in order to stay healthy over the holidays.

As we approach the holiday season, there is a surplus of precautions people can take to prioritize and maintain good health in the coming weeks to cherish the festivities. For many, the first step to having a relaxing time over the holidays is to avoid sickness.

Frequent contenders for illness during this time include influenza, the common cold, respiratory illnesses and COVID-19. 

Many pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens offer free flu shots, if one has proof of insurance, along with the updated COVID-19 vaccine

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu vaccine has many positive incentives, as the 2021 study results confirm that vaccinated patients had a “26% lower risk of intensive care unit admission and a 31% lower risk of death from flu compared with those who were unvaccinated.” Children are strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine, as it reduces the risk of life-threatening influenza by 75% within this demographic.

The same general incentives apply for the 2023 COVID-19 vaccine; the updated version will protect against Omicron strains EG.5 and BA.2.86. Yale Medicine reported that, by the end of September, the Omicron strain EG.5 accounted for 29.4% of SARS-CoV-2 cases. Therefore, annual vaccinations are a great way to safeguard our health. 

Everyone has access to the COVID-19 vaccine; those insured (including under Medicare and Medicaid) can visit their local pharmacy or healthcare provider with an insurance card, and those uninsured can receive free COVID-19 vaccines through the Bridge Access Program. 

To locate the free vaccine sites, visit or call 1-800-232-0233. For more information, visit Pima County’s COVID-19 vaccination information page.

Another prevalent issue during the holiday season is the lack of healthy eating. Experts say that the key here is to focus on balance, enjoying delicious treats while maintaining greater proportions of veggies and fruits. 

Another helpful suggestion is to practice mindful eating by slowing the eating pace, thoroughly chewing one’s food, and allowing your body to assess if you’re still hungry. These steps can help with overindulging and post-meal digestive issues. 

University of Arizona student Claudia Galaida acknowledged many holiday gatherings are in a potluck setting, especially among college students, which can sometimes make mindful eating more challenging. In order to avoid overindulging, she advised people to do “small rounds and to make sure you are not placing just one item but a variety of foods on your plate in small portions.” 

The holidays are synonymous with social gatherings and feasts. With many different meals being prepared, an often overlooked element of holiday health is food safety. The CDC recommends keeping foods separated and keeping the meats stored separately from the veggies in the fridge to prevent any form of cross-contamination. 

While cooking meats, it is also essential to reach the minimal safe internal temperatures; for example, beef steaks, roasts and chops must have an internal temperature of 145°F while pork ground meat must have an internal temperature of 160°F according to the official United States Food Safety regulations. 

Storing meals must be done with precaution and there are some simple procedures to remember. The two-hour rule states that all perishable foods must be refrigerated within two hours, and within one hour if the temperature is above 90°F. This precaution is crucial, as beyond the two-hour mark the food enters the ‘danger zone’ between 40°F and 140°F, promoting rapid bacterial growth, according to the CDC. 

According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, bacteria can double in number every 20 minutes within this temperature range. So when serving large feasts like those so common during this holiday season, hot foods must stay hot (above 140°F) via warming trays, and cold foods must stay cold (below 40°F)

Living in a post-pandemic world, it is important to continue best practices to protect our health. In terms of holiday meals, this starts with washing hands before, during and after preparing food. 

Additionally, washing hands before eating, after petting animals, after using the restroom, treating a wound and so forth reduce the spread of germs. Wearing a mask while feeling unwell not only helps contain the illness in public but also plays a crucial role in preventing the spread of sickness to others.

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