Dr Anita’s Top 10 Tips to keep you and your family healthy this Christmas.
We are on the countdown to Christmas, a fantastic time of year for loved ones to come together and to celebrate. But with the fun and games often come stressful times, such as trying not to burn the turkey and making sure that the family are happy and healthy.
The last thing anyone needs is a festive bout of the flu or an upset tummy.
Sadly, the facts are that people are more likely to be ill over Christmas.
The overindulgence and excesses that many people expose themselves to over the festive season, are sometimes just too much for our bodies to cope with.
We tend to drink more alcohol, have consecutive late nights and overindulge in rich foods, all of which can weaken our immune system. Plus this is the time of year where viral colds and sniffles are rife.
If you are having house guests, the problems multiply: it’s all very well filling your fridge with snacks to satisfy their appetites’ every whim, but do we consider stocking up our medicine cabinets too? For most people the answer is simply no we don’t!
With doctors’ surgeries serving shorter hours and shops and pharmacies closed for the holidays, getting hold of medical advice and treatments can be difficult.
So with this in mind, I am recommending that not only do we stock up on goodies to keep our stomach’s satisfied but we should also stock up on treatments to help alleviate those common festive ailments.
Ensuring that your home is well-stocked in advance means that, barring accident or emergency, no health quibble need cause a catastrophe.
Step One: Treating over-indulgence
Whether it’s too much food or too much drink, we all tend to over-indulge come Christmas time. The results can range form a simple headache to heartburn, indigestion and diarrhoea. Happily, with just a few simple store cupboard staples, the effects of each can be mitigated.
First stop is the painkiller. It may sound rudimentary, but it’s worth making sure you have plenty to hand so that, with shops shut on the 25th, you don’t fall short. Paracetamol may help if you’ve got a bit of a hangover, as it won’t make you queasy on an empty stomach. Ibuprofen can be used if you’ve pulled a muscle or have aches and pains from playing party games.
Indigestion is common over Christmas, this is a burning upper abdominal/chest sensation, often associated with reflux of acid into the mouth. It is caused by irritation of the stomach.Triggers include stress, alcohol, smoking, caffeine and symptoms can be settled with antacids to settle the stomach such as medications that you can buy in a pharmacy. Gaviscon or Ranitidine. Also natural alternatives to settle symptoms can include peppermint tea and tomato juice. Peppermint is very good for bloating, wind and relieving that overstuffed feeling. Tomato juice, meanwhile, delivers plenty of vitamin C, but is less irritating to the stomach than orange can be.”
Step 2 : Prepare to beat stomach upsets
An upset stomach isn’t just a sign of too much food and drink. With the large groups of people that gather over Christmas, viruses can spread easily. if you do have an upset stomach, the most important thing is to make sure that you stay hydrated and replace all the fluids you are losing. Imodium is an over the counter medication that can be helpful to settle diarrhoea.
If you are hosting a crowd, stock up on oral rehydration drinks and sachets
If a family member or a guest has come down with a bug, there are certain measures you can take to minimise the virus’s spread. Have plenty of anti-bacterial handwash for people to use regularly, do not share towels or cups etc. Wash your hands regularly.Vomiting bugs and diarrhoea can linger in bathrooms for up to seven days, so you really want to do everything you can to prevent them spreading.
Step 3: Combat that cold
We all know that there’s no such thing as a cure for a cold – but that doesn’t mean you need to let catching one ruin your Christmas. Ensuring you have some painkillers and a good decongestant, such as Sudafed, in your medicine cabinet means that you will, at least, be able to ward off the worst symptoms. It’s worth keeping some lozenges, too, for a sore throat and some pholcodine for a dry cough.
When feeling under the weather, vitamin C supplements and echinacea can come in handy, too. If you get the first warning signs of a cold, start dosing with those.
And if others around you start falling ill, keep your distance: Make sure to get plenty of rest, plenty of fruit and vegetables and stay as active as possible.
Step 4: Be Prepared
It’s a really good idea to ask what medications elderly guests are already on. Get their chemist to print off a list of prescriptions – that way, if you need to call your doctor or NHS Direct, you’ll have all the necessary information to hand. Just as crucial is that visitors bring enough of their meds with them. Don’t leave the renewing of prescriptions until the last minute, when there is a mad rush at the doctors.”The snowfall we have been having could easily delay delivery so the earlier you pick up your prescriptions, the better.
Step 5: Feeling bunged up
Like diarrhoea, constipation is a common complaint at this time of year, particularly among older people, so I suggest storing a gentle laxative such as Senokot. It can make all the difference if you are feeling uncomfortable.
Step 6: Bumps and Bruises
Keep a stock of bandages/plasters, antiseptic and arnica cream to hand in case of any unfortunate falls.
Stock up on some blister pads to nurse injured feet.
Step 7: Don’t forget the children
What with all the excitement, the new toys and so on, children are often hurting themselves somehow
Kids, of course, are just as liable to fall victim to coughs, colds and viruses as the rest of us – so be sure you have the means to handle them. Most common cough and cold remedies that we have for adults over the counter also come in special child versions.
I advise hosts to keep a thermometer to monitor children’s progress if they fall ill – and don’t be without a bottle of Calpol paracetamol syrup.
You can also buy ibuprofen suitable for children.
Step 8: Sleep tight
Insomnia is rife over Christmas, the most common cause being our tendency to eat big, boozy meals, frequently much later at night than we would otherwise. If you’re going to go to bed having just stuffed your face, you’ll sleep badly and don’t i know it!!
Try and avoid eating too much, too late and be sure to get some exercise in the daytime, going for a walk before lunch or dinner or a cycle ride can be good.
If those tactics don’t work, keeping a few essentials might.
Things like lavender oils, Kalms and the various alternative remedies you can get are helpful.
Earplugs can be useful if the source of your insomnia is less your over-full stomach and more the sound of your neighbours’ Christmas party or your snoring partner.
Failing all else, most pharmacies sell over-the-counter sleep aids such as Nytol. They are all quite good but they are just a temporary fix
Step 9: Waterworks
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Christmas is peak time for cystitis infections. The combination of caffeine, alcohol and the possibility of post-party romance means that we see a big Christmas spike in infections.
Antibiotics should be prescribed in severe cases, but for mild cystitis, a well-stocked medicine cabinet will come in handy. Painkillers can be used to ease discomfort. Also keeping some bicarbonate of soda, too, which, in half-teaspoon doses, can be dissolved in water to aid recovery.
Step 10: Skin melt down
Changes in diet, strews, alcohol, central heating and dodgy Christmas gifts may trigger off skin irritation, rashes and itchiness.
To stave off skin irritations, get hold of an anti-histamine such as an over the counter remedy like cetirizine. You would be amazed by how many people come down with a skin rash over Christmas
Lastly, make a list of essential phone numbers and keep it with your medicines. Note down your guests’ family doctors –particularly if they are already on regular medication – and keep NHS Direct’s details accessible.