(CBS Local)–The holiday season is underway. Now that the Thanksgiving holiday weekend is over, and while it’s a joyous season, doctors warn it’s also a time when people are more likely to get sick.

Not to spoil all the wonderful festivities and traditions of the holiday season, but when a lot of people are crowded together in the winter, that’s when germs are more likely to spread.

The holiday season has officially started. Decorations are up in malls and stores, and it’s time to check your list and get shopping.

Doctors warn big crowds of people this time of year brings an increased risk of picking up more than holiday presents. Mr. Grinch can deliver all sorts of nasty germs.

There are ways to minimize your chances of getting sick, starting with your shopping cart.

“I’d wipe it down as thoroughly as I could, it will reduce your risk of getting sick. Obviously, I wouldn’t touch my face or rub my nose, or touch my eye or anything while I was shopping, because even though you’ve wiped down, you’re still at risk,” said Dr. Dan Allan of the Cleveland Clinic.

Beyond the shopping cart, just think of all the things people touch. Experts say some viruses and bacteria can live on surfaces for days or even weeks.

The quick fix — hand sanitizer. It’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t kill all respiratory viruses. That’s why doctors say it’s best to wash your hands whenever possible, to get rid of lingering germs.

“That stuff can survive for weeks on a railing, on an elevator button, a door handle or anything that you’re shopping [for] or looking at. So, if you don’t wash your hands, there really is no real way to guarantee that you’re not going to get sick,” said Allan.

Doctors say holiday parties and get-togethers are also prime spots for sharing germs. Colds and flu are easily spread through close personal contact.

Doctors say flu shots are the best way to reduce the risk for getting influenza, while avoiding sick people if you can.

Also, keep your hands away from your face as that’s the primary way germs get into your mouth and nose.