By Glenn Ellis
Christmas is finally here but, alongside the happiness surrounding the festive season, there are a lot of health risks.
Yes, it may be the most wonderful time of the year, but Christmas is top of the list for health hazards, too. And while it’s the peak period for colds, flu and hangovers, not all the seasonal dangers are immediately obvious.
So, keep safe and follow our guide for a happy, healthy Christmas:
- Don’t let it be a turkey
Turkey is probably the biggest thing that goes in your oven each year – if not what else? – and here are some simple ways to make sure it’s part of a meal to remember for the right reasons. Don’t wash it before cooking. The majority of us do and that simply risks spreading harmful bacteria over worktops. If you have bought a frozen bird, then make sure it is fully defrosted with no ice crystals inside. Cook it properly until none of the meat is pink and the juices run clear. In the interest of being fair, you should know that summer is the peak time of year for food poisoning.
- High lights, low lights
It may look festive but dragging a tree – plastic or wooden – into your living room and covering it with electric lights and tiny glass baubles is asking for trouble! Consider a new set, and remember to turn them off at night.
- Up in smoke
That line of tea lights flickering on the window ledge won’t seem such a good idea if your curtains are set ablaze. Candles cause more than 1,000 house fires and several deaths every year. Fairy lights, decorations and even Christmas cards are also a fire hazard. You are 50 percent more likely to die in a house fire at Christmas than any other time. Make sure you don’t take the battery out of your smoke alarm to supply a new toy. A Christmas tree can turn into an inferno. But remember the majority of house fires start in the kitchen.
- Watch your step
There are more accidental falls and traffic accidents in December with bad weather and short daylight hours both playing a part. Snow and ice can be a lethal opponent to even the fittest individual and the best drivers. Last winter there were 76 deaths due to exposure to the cold, 25 fatalities caused by falling on ice or snow and even one involving ice skates.
- Keep an eye on the kids
Christmas offers a whole variety of choking hazards from Christmas tree bulbs to decorations. Make sure presents are appropriate for the age and watch out for small items that could be swallowed by toddlers.
- I couldn’t eat another…
Let’s face it most of us will eat too much over Christmas. That’s not a problem if it’s a one-off, but two out of three adults are overweight or obese. The American Heart Association says Christmas lunch can provide more calories than are needed in an entire day and you should pay close attention to reducing fat and calorie consumption, such as removing skin from turkey and eating slowly.
Eating too much will simply harm your own waistline, excess alcohol can ruin the lives of others too. Assaults and fights – many fueled by alcohol – and drunk driving both rise over Christmas and New Year. There is also a rise in alcohol poisoning.
- Unfestive fevers
There are always more deaths in winter than other times of year, with causes such as respiratory and circulatory diseases, and infections like flu. There are five times as many emergency admissions for pneumonia in December compared to August and cold weather also triggers a rise in asthma problems. There are more cases of norovirus – or winter vomiting bug – around than in recent years. Colds, sore throats and painful joints are all more prevalent in winter. There are things you can do to minimize some risks such as have a flu shot, stay warm and wash your hands regularly.
- The season of ill will
Let’s face it, family arguments are a far more reliable bet than the chances of a white Christmas. The advice is not to play the blame game with your partner or family; confront the issue at hand, and not each other and do your best to avoid sarcasm. Don’t overstay your welcome as a houseguest. As the old saying goes – guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.
- Lonely this Christmas
There’s only one thing worse than being surrounded by your relatives at Christmas and that’s not being surrounded by them. Research suggests there is a fall in suicides during the Christmas period followed by an increase just after the New Year. Of course, loneliness is just one of many problems people face in the coming weeks. Some will be confronted by a growing mountain of debt early in the New Year as Christmas bills start to pour in. Then there is marital breakdown – more people consider ending their relationship in January than at any other time.
No wonder hospital admissions shoot up between December 19 and the New Year!
This time of year can spark all kinds of unexpected reactions and behaviors in even the most well-adjusted among us. There’s the loneliness, the anxiety, the guilt, the overindulgence (which can also lead to guilt), and, of course, the bitterness.
Don’t hope for too much, but don’t freak yourself out preparing for the worst. And keep in mind the most comforting advice of all: It’ll all be over soon.
Remember, I’m not a doctor. I just sound like one.
Take good care of yourself and live the best life possible!
The information included in this column is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Glenn Ellis is a health columnist and radio commentator who lectures, nationally and internationally on health related topics. Listen to Glenn, on radio in Birmingham or V94.9, Sundays at 7:50pm, or visit: www.glennellis.com.