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A Holiday at the ER?

By: Ivan Olegario, MD, MDevComA Holiday at the ER?

Holidays are notorious for sending hordes of patients to the ER, for one reason or another. Here are the top ER holiday (block) busters.

  1. Heart attack

            Why? All the stress, traffic, and party feasts can easily burst a coronary.

             Prevent it:

  • Plan ahead. Avoid holding parties in rapid succession. And learn how to say no—you don’t need to go to all the parties.
  • Take your meds. Don’t let the holidays ruin your medication schedule. If necessary, bring some in your bag in case you forget to take your meds for the day.
  • Chow responsibly. Your heart and your waistline will both thank you for this. Choose greens over pork. Choose lean cuts over carbs. Use smaller portions, and avoid doing a Round 2.
  1. Alcohol-related accidents. This includes vehicular accidents, falls and other injuries, as well as alcohol intoxication.

    Why? What’s a party without alcohol, right? At least, that’s what people say.  And for some reason, it’s harder to be a party-pooper during the holidays.

Prevent it:

  •  Try “mocktails”. A lot of restaurants now offer alcohol-free cocktails for the teetotallers. Having a house party? Just mix clear soda and fruit juice, add some mint leaves, crushed ice and a nice goblet, and there you go!
  •  Or soda water. Soda water is a refreshing way to enjoy water (zero calories!) while having the zing of carbonated drinks.
  •  Limit the damage. If you really need to drink a bit, keep it to a bit. Ask for a lot of ice that will help to water down your drink. Take small sips—never gulp. It’s a drink, not a contest.
  •  Designate a driver. Or if you like, take Uber or Grab.
  1. Stomach problems. This includes gastritis, acid reflux, and food poisoning.

Why? Parties and overflowing food and booze, coupled with stress, will no doubt incite flares of gastritis and acid reflux. And since everyone is in a rush, and huge amounts of food need to be prepared, sanitation can sometimes be neglected, even by professional caterers. Leftovers also carry a high risk of food poisoning.

Prevent it:

  • Know your triggers. Caffeine and alcohol are common culprits for gastritis and acid reflux. It is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Take your meds. If you have a history of recurring or severe gastritis or acid reflux, there are a number of over-the-counter maintenance medications you can take, such as ranitidine 75 mg taken twice daily. Antacids will help once the acidity has set in. Importantly, more effective once-daily medications are available, but these require a doctor’s advice and prescription. Take your maintenance diligently, especially during the holidays.
  • Be very conscious of what you eat. If your tummy is quite sensitive, best to drink bottled water. Avoid raw or lightly cooked food, such as sushi.
  1. Burns

              Why? Burns are common during the holidays because of 2 things: lots of cooking and firecrackers.

              Prevent it:

  • Buy a feast-to-go. Most restaurants nowadays offer catering services for parties. You can even call professional food delivery services to pick up your restaurant fares to your house.
  • Serve potluck. If you insist on throwing a party but don’t have the time, ask your guests to bring food. It’s a healthy Filipino tradition that makes a party warmer and more intimate.
  • Do not multitask. Cook one dish at a time so that you can keep focus on what you’re doing—this will avoid painful accidents. Never ever let children inside the kitchen while you are cooking.
  • Cool it. The first aid to a burn is NOT burn ointment, or toothpaste, or petroleum jelly or butter. These will only make matters worse in most cases. Instead, run the burnt area in cool running water. Once the pain has lessened slightly, visit the emergency room. All burns involving children, the hands, the chest, the head, or the face should be seen by a doctor.
  • Ditch the firecrackers. These things are dangerous, in case you have not heard. If you want lights and sounds to welcome the New Year, visit the numerous countdown parties all over the country.
  1. Asthma attacks

             Why? Holidays tend to be more chilly than usual, with air that’s slightly drier. This can sometimes trigger asthma attacks. Year-end is also usually high-pollen season in parts of the Philippines, and this can again trigger asthma. Lastly, the fumes of              firecrackers are respiratory irritants that can send asthmatics gasping for air.

              Prevent it:

  • Maintain your airways. Maintenance medications, the ones you have to take daily regardless of how you are feeling, are the cornerstones of asthma prevention. These could include prescribed inhalers and oral medications. Be especially diligent during this season. Also, at the first sign of a bad asthma attack (an attack that is not relieved by one or two doses of inhaler), visit the emergency room.
  • Control hay fever. Pollen can trigger hay fever (bouts of itchy, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes).  Take a daily non-drowsy anti-allergy medication, such as cetirizine or loratidine. Some of these medications are in over-the-counter formats.



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