Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Common Christmas Ailments

Carlo Rivera - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – But the merriment is only half of the story. Christmas is also the time for ailments, whether self-inflicted or not. And it's obviously a big letdown to be feeling sickly, while all the others are having a good time.

It may not be possible to resist all that's to be avoided, or do what needs to be done, or to strictly stick to a well-formulated health plan or diet amid all the temptations. But it sure helps to be aware of what's possible to happen and what to do, if ever.

Per the Philippine experience, High Blood Pressure or Hypertension is the most common - and dreadful - of the holiday ailments. Most people with high blood pressure have no signs or symptoms, even if blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. Although a few people with early-stage high blood pressure may have dull headaches, dizzy spells or a few more nosebleeds than normal, these signs and symptoms usually don't occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.

The only practical precaution is to avoid fatty foods and have only just enough portions of the rich fares and just a little alcoholic drink.  Those already taking maintenance medications shall not miss a pill.

The doctor will likely recommend more frequent readings if you've already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Regular blood pressure readings are also necessary. (www.mayoclinic.org)

The website www.doctorfoc.co.uk shares the following:

1. Indigestion

The long series of parties during the Christmas season makes it very difficult not to splurge. And, yes, it can lead to a few unpleasant side effects. Indigestion is common. Also known as dyspepsia, it is the discomfort or pain in the chest not long after eating or drinking. It can also make one feel bloated, make one belch, cause heartburn and nausea.

The problem is often the result of stomach acid coming into contact with the sensitive, protective lining of the digestive system. It is a common problem that affects a lot of people, although only occasionally and mildly. The usual medications are antacids; but if symptoms persist, the doctor's or pharmacist's help shall be sought.

2. Stomach Upset

Again, too much eating is quite a strain for the stomach to handle, especially if it goes on unabated for weeks. Upset stomach can result. Typical 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, several favorites in the Christmas fare.

There are a variety of medications available in the majority of supermarkets for these conditions. But, if in doubt, advice shall be sought from a doctor or pharmacist.

3. Hangover

Quite often that "one for the road" results 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.

As a general rule, men shouldn't drink any more than three to four units (pint of beer is 2.3 units) of alcohol a day, women two to three (small glass of wine is 1.5 units). But it's Christmas, food is plenty and the drinks are flowing - over-indulgence is inevitable.

Hangover tips don't really give good cures. But a sound advice: 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. Common Cold

Amid the familial madness of the drunken uncle, the flatulent granny, and tantrum-throwing teen, the last thing you need is the grueling inconvenience of a common cold. This mild viral infection of the nose, throat and sinuses causes a runny nose, sneezing, a cough and sore throat. The cold weather is partly the culprit.

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, you need to consult your doctor.

5. Seasonal Flu

Even with granny's perennially knitted festive jumpers, the drop in temperature means we're more susceptible to coughs and sneezes. Flu can reveal itself in a number of guises, primarily fever, chesty cough, headache, tiredness, aching limbs and muscles, sore throat, runny or blocked nose, sneezing, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping. It can be a real downer on the festive mood.

Flu symptoms generally 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 a doctor shall be sought.

6. Dry Skin and Eczema

Dry skin is a common complaint during the cold months. It is 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 with hot days and cold nights.

Moisturising cream - the thicker the better - applied several times a day is a reliable solution to the problem of dry skin, and non-perfumed, unscented creams are less likely to irritate the skin.

7. Winter Headaches

Christmas in the Philippines means windy days and cold night, which are very much welcome in this warm tropical country. But in western countries those chilly temperatures can mean being 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. It's often avoided or cured by eating healthily (plenty of fruits and veggies, and protein such as chicken), plenty of Vitamin D, sleep (fatigue is a headache trigger), proper hydration, and plenty of exercise.

8. Brewer's Droop

Among married couples especially, loving feelings are quite hard to contain as everybody loosens up in celebration. But, often, the activities prior to the intimate moments can get in the way. The generous drinking that leads to the open expression of amorous emotions can kindle the desire in the couple, all right. But too much alcohol can be a stumbling block to the ultimate act.

It can be really frustrating if lover boy cannot rise to the occasion. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system - and that means it can be difficult, if not impossible, for men to get or maintain the stance of their sexual tool. It is advisable, therefore, for men to limit their alcohol intake.

9. Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D)

It might be depressing to some that come July of every year, the tinned fruit section of the supermarket has been squeezed to make way for an eye-poppingly premature assortment of school supplies and cards. However, Season Affective Disorder (SAD) is a serious problem, although it is not yet reported in the Philippines - thank God. But in the UK, it is thought to affect one in 50 people.

Also known as the "winter blues," it's a form of depression that affects people in certain seasons (particularly September and November), then gradually lifts as the temperatures get warmer. It's thought to be linked to the prevalent lack of sunlight through the season, which affects mood-related chemicals in the brain. Treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy and antidepressants, and light therapy as well.

10. Chilblains

The painful red, itchy lumps of chilblains and its equally irritating cousin, Raynaud's disease, are common winter conditions. So, again, countries like the Philippines with no winter are spared. The conditions are linked to getting cold and trying to warm the hands - either on the radiator, over the stove and the like - after the person has been out too long in the cold outside - but it's too late by then. It is avoided by not getting cold in the first place. A good, thick pair of gloves and socks also helps.

11. Norovirus

This, too, is a mainly Western ailment. 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.

It is highly contagious and affects people of all ages, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea. The incubation period is usually 12-48 hours, but it shouldn't last more than a couple of days. So far, there's no specific cure - meaning the illness will have to run its full course. But a few things can ease the symptoms, including drinking plenty of water, taking paracetamol for the aches and pains, washing the hands frequently with soap and water, not sharing towels or flannels, and disinfecting surfaces/objects that could be infected.

Yet while Filipinos are spared from a couple of the common global Christmas ailments, we also have other Christmas health and safety problems on our own. For instance, the incidence of firecracker injuries (although supposedly declining) remains significant during the Christmas season in the country. And the smoke from all the firecracker explosions trigger asthma attacks, especially among young children.

For many years now, the country's Department of Health has been campaigning for a stop to the firecracker tradition. It is deemed to be the best way yet to avoid the mentioned seasonal accidents and health problem. And, to add to that, it can mean big money savings too, considering how expensive each burst of firecracker can be.

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