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December 19, 2012

Creepy-crawly holidays: 9 ways to avoid germs

The most wonderful time of the year has a dark underbelly: germs, bugs and general ickiness that can travel more quickly than Santa's sleigh. We're not trying to give you the willies, just suggesting a few easy ways to prevent problems and make your holidays even happier.

Spoiled Snacks on the Doorstep

Mail-order food gifts are great unless the weather outside is too delightful to keep them cold. Left out too long, even well-packaged perishables such as cheese and cheesecake become frightful. What to do: Open perishables immediately. If food temperature is above 40 degrees, call the company that sent it and don't eat any. Not even a nibble. Seriously, don't.

Maladies Under the Mistletoe

Before you pucker up, consider a cheery note from a British Columbia health department: "Colds, kissing disease [mononucleosis], herpes infection, warts, hepatitis B and meningococcal disease may all be transmitted by kissing." What to do: Smooch with discretion. (Thinking about warts should help.)

Tummy Troubles in Tight Places

Getting away for the holidays? Norovirus, a.k.a. "winter vomiting disease," causes more than 20 million cases of gastroenteritis every year. It spreads easily in tight quarters such as hotels, restaurants, airplanes and cruise ships and is often transmitted on uncooked greens, fruit and shellfish. What to do: Wash hands often and don't share utensils. If someone becomes ill with nausea or diarrhea, disinfect contaminated surfaces with a bleach solution.

(Hum)bug on the Tree

Critters on conifers are harmless and usually remain unnoticed until you haul the tree to the curb, but a few mites, spiders or praying mantids might hop off or hatch and stay awhile. What to do: Before taking a tree inside, shake it to get rid of loose bugs and remove obvious eggs and nests. Don't spray with insecticide - it's flammable.

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