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Five holiday questions addressed by our clinicians

Personal · Nov 24, 2020

At this point of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians are used to remaining flexible about their plans. Still, this can feel especially challenging during the holidays. Since public health guidelines can change weekly, daily, and even hourly, we all have questions about how to schedule safe festivities. Keep reading for advice from our clinicians.

1. What is the safest way for grandparents or great-grandparents to participate in holiday celebrations during the COVID-19 pandemic?

(Answered by Heather Wesselo, Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner for ON, AB, and MB)

Each family and each family member should assess their own risk levels and follow public health policies when deciding how to have a safe, inclusive holiday celebration. The CDC also offers guidelines to supplement your local and provincial regulations; likewise, be sure to adhere to the guidelines provided by nursing homes or care facilities, if applicable.

There will be inevitable gaps to this year’s holiday celebrations. Remember to use technology to bridge those gaps as this continues to be the “new normal” during the holidays and into the new year.

2. I’ve been invited to a holiday gathering of fewer people than what has been outlined by the provincial government. Is it safe to attend?

(Answered by Kathryn Sharman, Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner for ON, AB, NB, YT, and NL)

With cases on the rise in most parts of Canada, we have to be more vigilant than ever.

When considering social invitations, remember that gathering size rules are based on the logic that limiting our number of contacts with individuals will help to reduce viral spread. The logic here is more important than the rule: for example, if someone interacts with 1-2 different people every day for a week, they will have had contact with up to 14 people by the end of the week. Although this person is likely still “following the rules,” their exposure is greater than they might think.

The desire to interact socially is a powerful one. We are all sacrificing a lot to keep each other safe, and the best path forward is to make sensible choices based on provincial health guidelines. Lastly, remember to be respectful of those who decide not to participate in gatherings, no matter how small, based on their own comfort levels.

3. Is it safe to go to a shopping mall to do my holiday shopping?

(Answered by Kathleen Dempsey, Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner for ON, NWT, and NU)

While it can be safe to go to the mall with the proper precautions, the more important question is whether it’s necessary. Crowded malls provide ample opportunities for the virus to spread because it’s more difficult to maintain physical distancing. This year, try to get creative with your holiday shopping. This means shopping online or supporting local stores, many of which provide curbside pickup and/or delivery service.

If you must go to the mall, remember to wear your mask, maintain your distance, use hand sanitizer/wash your hands, and avoid shopping if you are feeling unwell. We need to stay apart now, so that we can be together again soon.

4. What should I do if I develop cold or flu symptoms during the holidays?

(Answered by Camille Lalonde, Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner for QC and ON)

Immediately self-isolate and start supportive measures to help ease symptoms, including Tylenol, nasal rinses, and rest. You can also seek advice by starting a virtual consultation onTELUS Health Virtual Care.

Also check provincial COVID-19 health guidelines to determine if you should be tested for COVID-19 and to establish how long you should isolate for. As you wait for your test results, get creative in ways you can stay in touch with your loved ones virtually.

5. People who usually travel to see family for the holidays will likely have to spend most of the holidays alone. What are some ways to cope with isolation?

(Answered by Briana Black, Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner for ON and PEI)

To help make the holiday season feel less lonely, try new ways of connecting with loved ones, either virtually – try hosting a Netflix watch party! – or simply by picking up the phone. Another suggestion is to start a new artistic endeavour or learn a new skill, thanks to the millions of free tutorials available online.

Most importantly, get outside and get active. Try an evening walk to check out all the Christmas lights and decorations in your neighbourhood. Bring along your camera to capture some beautiful winter scenery. Go snowshoeing, skating or cross-country skiing.  Being outside will decrease feelings of isolation and cabin fever, and exercise releases endorphins to boost your mood.

Finally, get cozy. Curl up with a hot drink and just relax — sometimes a holiday spent at home is just the holiday we need.




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