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Checklist for the Holidays

By: Darleth Romana-Bantiles, MDChecklist for the Holidays

Whether you’re three or ninety-three years old, the holidays will be extra challenging for the following reasons:

  • additional activities/events
  • changes in routine
  • heavier human and transport traffic
  • additional expenses

Although the last thing you want is to have a trip to the Emergency Room (ER) at this time, mishaps do happen even when we least expect them. This is why it is better to be prepared with a go-to kit for first aid, whether you are at home or travelling.

Stocking up the basics

The first aid kit should contain items and over-the-counter medications for common health concerns like headache, allergic reaction, stomach upset, fever, colds, cuts/scrapes, and burn. Stock up with at least 10 pieces (or more if you have a big crowd) of these:

  • sterile gauze (of different sizes)
  • cotton buds/ balls
  • plaster (of different sizes)
  • paracetamol, antacid, anti-spasmodic, decongestant, antihistamine

Also, it is important to have these in the kit: betadine or any other antiseptic solution for open skin, 70% ethyl alcohol for other disinfection purposes, bandage scissors, tape for wounds, elastic bandage, bag for cold/warm pack, eucalyptus oil or rub, calamine, and zinc oxide ointment, examination gloves, tweezers, thermometer and small flashlight.

Knowing is winning half the battle

Apart from items and knowing where they are kept, one should also be equipped with practical knowledge about health emergencies. In addition, emergency numbers should be listed down and placed conveniently in the kit.

The first few minutes may be critical for allergic reactions, burns, big cuts, choking or heart attacks. Staying calm is important to maintain presence of mind. For an allergic reaction, keeping the airway open is important. If the victim can take an antihistamine, then giving one is the next thing to do. For burns, contact with the heat source must be cut immediately. On the other hand, big cuts need to be padded with pressure, without compromising normal blood flow. Elevation of the area, if it is in the extremities, may also help.

A special maneuver, known as Heimlich, may be done for a choking victim. If the victim is conscious, encouraging them to cough out the choking material should be done first. If the victim cannot cough or speak, the first five minutes to do the maneuver can save a life. If the victim is a baby or small child, hold him firmly upside down, then do five back claps in between the shoulder blades, using the heel of your other hand. For an older child or adult victim, do the maneuver by standing behind and applying pressure (via clasped hands with thumb pressure) on the hollow portion below the rib cage. Two firm thrusts or more may be done to apply the needed force that will push up the material that caused choking. If the adult is unconscious, kneel astride facing the victim that is lying on his back. Apply quick, upward pressure with one of your hands on top of the other; place the heel of your bottom hand on the abdomen, below the rib cage and just above the navel. Repeat until the object that caused choking is expelled.

Knowledge about Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) may be vital for a heart attack situation. However, trained persons are the ones encouraged to administer it to possible victims. If a person lost consciousness, make sure that his or her airway is patent (by feeling for breath through the nose, visualizing the mouth), and administer CPR (if you know how) or call for help promptly.

The kit and basic first aid knowledge should not, in any way, replace ER trips when it is necessary. Issues that involve broken bones, cuts that need stitching, or those of cardio-pulmonary and neurological nature will need urgent intervention by medical professionals.

Keeping the holiday cheer

Accidents may be addressed more effectively by decreasing hazards or removing factors that compromise safety. When putting up decors, make sure that the trimmings will not trip or catch the sleeve of anyone passing. For step ladders, make sure that it is stable and avoid standing on the top two steps. Do not hesitate to ask for help when needed and never push yourself to the limit.  Make a schedule. Plan your menu, and learn to say “no”. Moderation is also the key especially when eating a favorite food, using salt, or drinking liquor. Likewise, using a small plate or glass can do the trick.

In case a trip to the ER is necessary, carry with you the holiday spirit, and be gracious to hospital staff and fellow ER clients. If the queue is long, make sure you bring along something to pass the time.

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