For all the good cheer he brings to boys and girls every year, Santa gets a lot of aches and germs in return.
Last week, a kid threw up all over the Christmas set at a Kalamazoo, Mich., mall where Don Baxter was working. And the diaper-wearing set often leaves Santa’s suit a little wetter than before.
Baxter, a mall Santa for 39 years, takes Tylenol every day for his back, Halls lozenges to keep talking, Benadryl to stop his nose from running, and Sudafed too, to be on the safe side.
“Having to lift a 75-pound kid on your lap is hard,” he said.
Being Santa is a high-stress commitment that can break down an immune system quickly, said Susen Mesco, founder and director of the Denver-based Professional Santa Claus School, who has trained about 2,100 professional Santas.
From after Halloween through Christmas, the work can be seven days a week, 10 hours a day.
Baxter often spends four-hour shifts in Santa’s chair, following by a one-hour break. He says all that sitting throws off normal bodily functions, and he has to lie down on his breaks to get his circulation going.
“Your body’s not used to sitting for so long,” Baxter said,
Far from the freezing temperatures at the North Pole, Baxter said the sun from a skylight above him is “frying me.”
Overheating can be a serious problem for Santa, especially in colder regions of the country where there’s an extreme temperature differential between the outside and indoors, Gloria Wendling, a coordinator with the Illinois Professional Santas in Nokomis, Ill., told Bloomberg Law.
More Santas should wear a longer coat over a vest and shirt, which they can take off when at an event, Wendling said, instead of wearing the traditional short fur coat.
If the long coat isn’t an option, Santas can try a cooling vest underneath their shirt. Overheating can make you sick, Wendling said, especially when you’re already run down from the lengthy Christmas season.
All of the stresses are forcing Santa to whip himself into better shape. People playing Santa are moving away from being morbidly obese, Mesco said, referring to what she has been seeing among attendees of her Santa school.
“The new look is stocky and robust, kind of like a linebacker,” Mesco said.
The new look also is due to a healthier lifestyle among some Santas that includes eating oatmeal for breakfast, working out, and taking vitamins, all part of an effort to make it through Christmas, Mesco said.
As for hydration, Baxter says, it’s about drinking lots of water. Santas need to avoid alcohol as it will just dehydrate them, he said.
Other health tips include changing gloves every one to two hours during an event, regularly using hand sanitizer, and diffusing essential oils, Mesco said.
Parents can be Santa’s helpers by not bringing sick kids to see him.
“Santa wants to give out candy canes, not strep throat,” Mesco said.