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PYB Health

The 12 Cures of Christmas

By PYB Health
Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Christmas should be a time of happiness, gifts, food and loved ones. This year there is of course the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic and the added worry of the Omicron variant – however we must not forget how to keep ourselves safe in other ways. We have compiled a few simple steps to ensure minor (and some more serious) ailments don’t spoil our fun this festive season.

Accidents aside, it’s important to try your best to stay healthy during the festive period as medical services are often reduced. Here are 12 of the most common ailments people experience at this time of year and what you can do to prevent them.

Back Pain

Back pain is the leading causes of pain in British adults, and Christmas is prime time for this. Decorating, heavy shopping, playing with the children, drinking more alcohol than usual, and eating rich foods can all damage your back. Limiting your intake of food and drink that can cause inflammation such as alcohol and sugar, taking daily walks and ensuring you bend your knees when lifting heavy items can help reduce aches and pains.

Colds, Flu and Coronavirus 

During a normal year, colds and flu are regular occurrences through the winter months. This year we have the added illness of Coronavirus, more specifically the Omicron variant. The winter months compromise our immune systems because of the cold weather so making sure you wrap up and stay warm is essential. Eating fresh, healthy food and taking vitamin C supplements can also help fight off cold and flu viruses. The best way to evade a cold, flu and coronavirus is to wash your hands regularly and avoid close contact with people who are sick. Everyone over the age of 18 is now eligible for their COVID-19 booster vaccine (second dose must have been at least 3 months ago), by having three doses you are reducing the likelihood of contracting the Omicron variant and being seriously ill.

Chilblains

After exposure to the cold, you may experience small swellings on your fingers, toes, ears or nose – these are known as Chilblains. People who smoke, have poor circulation or pre-existing medical conditions are more prone to chilblains. It is recommended people wrap up well by wearing thermals and that when you come in from the cold you try to warm up gradually as heating the skin rapidly can trigger an attack. Sometimes the swellings can become infected, if this happens or you develop a high temperature you should see a doctor.

Christmas Tree Syndome (CTS)

Some people find themselves developing symptoms similar to hay fever during the festive season (watering eyes, itchy or blocked nose, coughing) – this may be because of the Christmas tree you have brought home. The best way to treat this is by hosing down your tree before you bring it inside, avoid touching or decorating it and take antihistamines to relieve symptoms. If symptoms become unbearable you may consider getting an artificial tree.

Cold Sores

Cold sores occur when you feel run down or stressed, the weather changes or by eating certain foods. They appear as blisters around the mouth and can be uncomfortable for many. You can treat with over-the-counter creams from your local pharmacy. As they are infectious you should avoid close contact with others especially babies and people with weakened immune systems.

Dry Skin

For those with dry skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis winter can be a miserable and uncomfortable time. A combination of cold weather, reduced sunlight and dehydrating central heating can irritate your skin. To treat, apply moisturiser regularly, the best time is after a warm shower or just before bed. Some people also find investing in a humidifier and wearing cotton underneath wool clothing or fleeces to benefit.

Hangovers

Research found that before the pandemic, 61% of drinkers in the UK over-indulge with alcohol over the festive season, whilst 18% say they suffer more hangovers during the Christmas period. Although we like to think there are remedies for hangovers, the best way to avoid being hungover is to avoid alcohol. The NHS recommends not drinking on an empty stomach, eating a carb rich meal beforehand and matching every alcoholic drink with a glass of water to reduce the risk of dehydration. If you do wake up with a sore head, then paracetamol and sugary drinks can help - although you may want a bacon sandwich it will only make you feel worse, try to have light soups or plain rice.

Heart Attacks

Due to the colder weather and your heart having to work harder to maintain a good body heat the risk of heart attacks does increase in winter. If you heart is having to work hard this could elevate blood pressure which puts your heart under strain. Ensuring you keep warm is essential, your living space should ideally be around 21C, but if the cost of heating is an issue we recommend using hot water bottles and electric blankets to stay warm. If you think yourself or someone close to you is experiencing a heart attack call 999 immediately.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It is thought that around 4 million people in the UK experience SAD. If you notice you feel upbeat and happier in the warmer months, but your mood seems to drop when autumn and winter come around it could be SAD. It is thought that low levels of sunlight trigger the condition as light stimulates the happy hormone serotonin and limits melatonin production which causes sleepiness. You can help yourself by taking daily walks when it is sunny, regulating your sleep to the same time each night and looking into investing or renting a light box.

Sickness Bugs

The fatty foods and large intakes of alcohol can cause our stomachs to become worn out. Projectile vomiting and diarrhoea is not fun though for many is does clear up after a couple of days. The NHS recommend rest and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Rehydration sachets can also be purchased from your local pharmacy which are very useful in building back your strength. Frequent hand washing and not sharing bedding or towels with the person infected will increase your chances of not contracting the sickness.

Indigestion

Higher than usual amounts of sugar, fat and alcohol can cause our digestive systems to become irritated. Stomach aches and festive indigestion tend to be self-inflicted; they are be reduced by drinking peppermint tea and taking probiotics. Each person is different so some foods may irritate you more than it does others, it is good to make note of what triggers you so you can learn to avoid them.

Stress

The pressure at Christmas for many is intense and can result in disagreements and money worries. Some ways to minimise stress include taking a vitamin B supplement over the festive period which can improve mood and have a calming effect. Being organised in advance can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and not drinking too much alcohol can reduce the likelihood of arguments of disagreements. Finally, try to let go of the idea of a perfect Christmas or that you have to please everyone – Christmas is your holiday too!

Everyone here at PYB wants to see their patients have a happy and safe Christmas. Please be sensible and aware of the changing coronavirus restrictions, whilst also having a great Christmas with family.

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