What with goodwill and merriment of the season it is a time for festivities, joy, families, presents, the perennial box of Brazil Nuts, and bountiful Turkey. Yes, December is a veritable winter wonderland of hearty good cheer and an inimitably warm glow.
At Essex Private Doctors it is also the time for illnesses and ailments, some self-inflicted, others not. But the last thing you want amidst the festive madness of the Queen’s speech and sherry-infused squabbling aunties is to be feeling a bit peaky.
With our guide to Christmas ailments, you might not be able to dodge all of them, but at least you’ll know what to do if you become one of the afflicted.
1. Bloating and Gas
What with the cracking open of fizzy drinks and champagne combined with over indulgence in food and vegetables like brussel sprouts, wind builds up inside your body. Mainly caused by our diet and gulping down too much air we can be left in some quite significant discomfort.
We suggest that you try where possible to moderate your diet and if you feel great discomfort you can speak to your pharmacist about antacids.
2. Stomach Upset
Overindulgence of Quality Streets, Cocktails and Christmas pudding means that you’re going to put your stomach through its paces over the Yuletide season.
Typical upset stomach symptoms include a bile taste in the mouth, stomach pains, ulcers, irregular bowel movements, and constipation. The pain can often be made worse by things such as coffee, fatty foods, onions, alcohol and chocolate – in other words, a few of Christmas’s favourite contenders.
You should not need to call on us for this and there is a variety of medications available over the counter for these conditions.
Whilst strictly not an illness, that ‘one for the road’ may have resulted in a morning of splitting headaches, room-spinning dizziness, gag-inducing dehydration and vein-popping vomiting?
Alcohol is a diuretic – removing fluids from the body – that leads to dehydration, and this is what kick-starts a head-busting hangover.
And while there are hangover tips, there aren’t any cures. However, here’s some sound advice to get you through: Don’t drink on an empty stomach, drink soft drinks between the alcoholic ones, and drink a pint or so of water before you go to bed.
4. Seasonal Flu
Even with granny’s perennially knitted festive jumpers, the drop in temperature means we’re more susceptible to those unpleasant winter chills, coughs and sneezes.
Why not come and see us for your Flu Vaccination call 01277 201001
Generally, flu symptoms peak after two to three days and you should feel better within five to eight. In most cases plenty of rest, drinking lots of water and keeping warm will get you on the road to recovery. More serious strains of flu, such as chest infections or pneumonia, will need to be treated with antibiotics, in which case you should consult your Private GP.
Indigestion – also known as dyspepsia – is the discomfort or pain in your chest not long after you’ve been eating or drinking. It can also make you feel bloated, make you belch, cause heartburn and nausea.
Caused as a result of stomach acid coming into contact with the sensitive, protective lining of the digestive system, it’s a common problem that affects a lot of people but only occasionally and mildly.
Medications such as antacids usually remedy the problem, although if symptoms persist you should consult your pharmacist or Private GP.
6. Winter Headaches
Think of Christmas and you imagine nice, warm, cosy, fluffy things. But those chilly temperatures, terrible Christmas tunes and meteorological dips mean you can also be struck by a splitting winter headache.
A winter headache is triggered primarily because of the change in temperature and weather, as well as being caused by the common cold. But they can also be caused by things such as red wine, MSG, coffee, cheese, and skipping meals.
Best way to beat – or even better, avoid – a winter headache is to eat healthily (plenty of fruit and veg, and protein such as chicken), get plenty of Vitamin D, sleep (fatigue is a headache trigger), stay hydrated, and get plenty of exercise.
7. Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D)
Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is a serious problem that is thought to affect one in 50 people in the UK. Also known as the ‘winter blues’, it’s a form of depression that affects people from September and November, then gradually lifts in early spring.
Treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressants, and light therapy is thought to have a short-term effect. Just give us a call if you are worried that you are suffering from SAD.
8. Eczema and dry skin
A common complaint during the shivery months, dry skin is also uncomfortable and irritating. eczema is another skin condition that’s linked to having an allergic reaction, and can be exacerbated by heat, cold, dryness, wetness or harsh wind – conditions of extremes we put our bodies through after spending hours in the freezing cold, to then warm up in front the fire.
Moisturising cream – the thicker the better – applied several times a day is always a reliable solution to the problem of dry skin, and non-perfumed, unscented creams are less likely to irritate the skin.
9. Chilblains and Raynaud’s disease
The painful red, itchy lumps of chilblains and its equally irritating cousin, Raynaud’s disease, are common winter conditions. They’re also a Christmas present you definitely don’t want.
The key is to avoid getting cold in the first place – precipitously warming yourself up when you’re already frozen to the bone only makes things worse. A good, thick pair of gloves and socks will keep you nice and toasty and keep the chilblains at bay.
When it comes to thoroughly unpleasant winter bugs, Norovirus – also known as the winter vomiting bug – is the reigning champion. It is the most common ailment in the UK, affecting between 600,000 to 1 million people every year.
Highly contagious and affecting people of all ages, it causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. The incubation period is usually 12-48 hours but it shouldn’t last more than a couple of days.
And while there’s no specific cure – meaning you have to let its unpleasantness work its way through your system – there are a few things you can do to ease the symptoms These include: drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated, taking paracetamol for the aches and pains, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, not sharing towels or flannels, and disinfecting surfaces/objects that could be infected.
11. Common Cold
It is a mild viral infection of the nose, throat and sinuses that causes a runny nose, sneezing, a cough and sore throat. In adults, it lasts for about a week and in children about two weeks. If you’re particularly unlucky, you can be afflicted with a series of colds of various strengths.
Symptoms can usually be relieved by taking over-the-counter medication such as Paracetamol, and drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. And you can prevent germs from spreading by washing your hands regularly, sneezing and coughing into tissues, cleaning surfaces, and using your own crockery.
If symptoms persist for more than three weeks, however, consult your pharmacist or Private GP.
12. Christmas Tree Syndrome
This is a fairly new modern day ailments and you might be forgiven for thinking Christmas Tree Syndrome was as fictional as Santa Claus (I didn’t just ruin it for you, did I?). Well, you’d be wrong.
The condition is caused by breathing in the mould and spores growing on the Christmas tree, which causes an itchy nose, watery eyes, and shortness of breath, coughing, chest pains, fatigue, along with problems sleeping.
And the best way to rid yourself of this pine-based affliction? Doctors have recommended you first hose down your tree in the garden and let it dry out before you prop it up alongside the rest of the Christmas decorations – and then swiftly dispose of it after Christmas Day.
We however heartily recommend a good old plastic or metal Christmas Tree to our patients who suffer. Ideally combined with a 2 week holiday in Barbados……..only joking.
Have a great party season everyone and remember we are here if you need us.
Essex Private Doctors