Even Santas have to be careful this season

Santa-America, a service charity, recommends that all Kris Kringles get their jolly old selves vaccinated against H1N1 influenza and pneumonia.

Group president Ernest Berger asked an Alabama congressman to designate Santas a priority group for the H1N1 flu vaccine, like health care workers or infant caregivers.

A spokesman for Republican Rep. Jo Bonner confirmed Berger’s request and said staff members were looking into it.

Berger told The Associated Press that he hopes Santas will use hand sanitizer and encourage children to do the same, without turning the experience into a hygiene lecture.

“It’s a delicate balance here. This is not an exercise in health care. This is visiting Santa,” he said.

Santa-America also offered these tips on its website:

When visiting a group of unrelated children, do not wear gloves, and use hand sanitizer — every time — between children.

Santa can be a role model regarding hand washing and sanitizer use.

Engage the children in hand sanitizing with Santa — make it fun!

As wonderful as it is, be cautious of children burying their faces in your beard for a hug. If this happens, use sanitizer in your beard.

Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, or mouth. Do not touch children’s face. If you do, immediately sanitize your hands.

If you meet children who appear to be ill, ask that they return at a different time when they are feeling better and will better enjoy the visit.

Santa should be taking needed vitamins and other doctor-approved boosters to keep his immune system at peak performance.

Get plenty of rest (at least eight hours) and eat regular meals.

“Remember,” the group posted on its website, “no flu bug can stop a prepared Santa in bringing love, hope and joy to our children!

“We deliver 365 days a year.”