A Sanitary Christmas
Tips for safer gift-giving in a season compromised by COVID-19
Article By Erik J. Martin, CTW Features
Along with trimming the tree and gathering with loved ones, exchanging gifts is a time-honored tradition that makes the holiday season special. But with coronavirus lingering, experts are concerned that gift-givers and recipients may be opening up Pandora’s Box and putting themselves and others at risk of acquiring COVID-19 through this cherished gesture of goodwill. And no amount of feel-good holiday spirit can neutralize the threat of getting sick.
Fortunately, you can take precautions if you plan to exchange presents this December or substitute plans to ponder if you deem this practice too precarious this year.
“Gift-giving is important to make people feel loved, valued, and remembered, especially during the holiday season. But this may not be what’s best for our friends and relatives,” says Morgan Falevai, a gift-giving expert and marketing manager for Brilliant Gifts in Kaysville, Utah. “Social distancing, mask-wearing, and other recommended guidelines are in place to keep our family and friends safe. But we should also be careful with how we prepare, give, receive, and open gifts this year.”
Shanina Knighton, an infection preventionist and nurse scientist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, recommends playing it extra safe in 2020. She says it’s best to do gift exchanges only with people you live with or have been in quarantine with. But if you plan to swap presents with others, too, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.
“First, if you are the gift giver, put on a mask and pick a durable wrapping paper that can withstand a light disinfectant spray,” says Knighton. “Wash your hands, disinfect the surface where the item will be wrapped, gently clean the item, wrap it, then wash your hands again. Label the item so that the recipient will be the only one who next touches it.”
Giuseppe Aragona, MD, a general practitioner and medical advisor with PrescriptionDoctor.com, advises wiping the packaging and gift with a disinfectant that meets the EPA’s criteria for fighting against the coronavirus (visit tinyurl.com/wipescovid19 to see a list), where possible.
“I also suggest using wrapping paper that’s easy to wipe – something shiny. Additionally, consider purchasing gifts that are already in boxes,” says Aragona.
Try to wrap the gifts at least four days in advance of giving them so that viral germs, if present, can die off before the person receives the gift. Of course, if you have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, wait until you test negative to give any gifts.
Plan on mailing the package? If so, send it as early as possible.
“Remember, it will pass through multiple individuals and carriers in the exchange to get to your recipient,” Knighton notes. “Put a sticky note inside the package reminding the recipient to wash their hands after opening the gift.”
Recipients should practice similar safety protocols.
“When receiving the package, wash your hands, clean off the surface to place the item onto, unwrap the gift, gently disinfect the item, and then wash your hands again,” suggests Knighton.
If the recipient is a child, “parents should consider accepting the gift ahead of time, unwrapping it, disinfecting the item, and re-wrapping it. They should also make sure their kids properly wash their hands,” adds Knighton. “Keep in mind that many toys and children’s gifts are made of plastic; COVID-19 can survive on plastic for three days.”
In-person gift exchanges, whether at work or in someone’s home, should be handled carefully as well.
“Everyone should be on board with proper planning, hand hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing, even on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day,” says Knighton.
To keep things even simpler and avoid pandemic hazards altogether, consider alternative arrangements.
“Gift cards – especially electronic ones – are a great way to support small and local businesses and help keep everyone safer this season,” suggests Falevai. “You can also offer to donate money to a charity of your loved one’s choice instead of giving them a gift.”
Even though these recommended safeguards may seem onerous, it’s important to put these matters in proper perspective.
“Gifts are things that are temporary, whereas human life is something that is precious and cannot be replaced,” says Aragona.