The holiday season is in full swing. It’s a wonderful time full of family, food, and fun. With winter activities like sledding and snowman building, and plenty of holiday parties, shopping and gift-giving, for many it’s truly “the most wonderful time of the year”!
Yes, the holidays can be a blast, but they can also wreak havoc on your health. Interrupted sleep patterns, holiday travel, changes in diet and spending more time cooped up with large groups of people are all a recipe for sniffles and sneezes, or worse. When you add in injuries from winter sports, and the dangers of exposure to cold weather, it’s easy to see why so many of us end up in the emergency room. And while some of these winter injuries and illnesses are pretty obvious, others may not be on your radar. But if you want to stay healthy this holiday season, it’s important to be aware.
The holidays happen right at the peak of cold and flu season. And since they often mean gatherings of large groups of people in enclosed spaces, it’s easy for germs to get passed around. While there is no surefire way of preventing this type of illness, there are steps you can take to lower your chances of getting sick. If you haven’t had a flu shot yet this year, now’s the time to take care of that. And remember to observe good hand washing routines as this can often ward off some of the most common germs being passed around.
Change in Diet
It’s no secret that holiday goodies aren’t necessarily good for you. But all of those wonderful holiday foods we look forward to all year can actually lead to serious health concerns. Added sugars can cause serious problems from those living with diabetes. An increase in salt intake and unhealthy fats can cause high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. And for many, greater intake of alcohol can lead to all sorts of health complications, both mental and physical.
While the holidays may seem like the perfect time to “let yourself go” a bit, it’s a good idea to maintain the same healthy eating and exercise habits you observe the rest of the year. You may have a few extra desserts or an extra drink or two, but it shouldn’t become a daily habit. And if you do start to notice health changes, be sure to check in with a medical professional sooner rather than later. Putting it off until January could spell disaster in severe cases.
This is a big one. With a to-do list a mile long, a budget stretched thin and a calendar crammed full of holiday activities, it’s easy to get overwhelmed this time of year. But too much stress can cause some major problems for your health. It can cause high blood pressure, loss of sleep, and a decline in your immune system, all of which can cause serious complications.
If you’re feeling stressed this season, it might be time to make some changes. It’s better to gracefully decline a few invites or delegate some of those holiday chores than to make yourself sick trying to do it all. Make simple changes like hiring someone to handle the outdoor Christmas lighting, or switching from wrapping gifts to stuffing them into cute gift bags. Relax and remember that the best holiday memories are less about the perfect gifts and more about fun times spent with family and friends.
Winter roads can be hazardous. When you add in the alcohol often served at holiday parties and gatherings, they can become downright deadly. Before the snow and ice sets in, be sure to check that your tires are prepared for the weather. And if you choose to partake in a bit of holiday cheer while out and about, use a designated driver or call an uber and get home safely.
During the holiday season, snow and ice can often lead to falls and spills. Most of the time, it may only be your pride that is truly hurt. But if you take a particularly nasty spill or catch yourself wrong, it’s easy to sprain ankles and wrists or even break bones in the frosty winter weather.
Additionally, many winter sports can cause injuries. If you’re sledding, skiing, snowboarding or ice skating, it’s a good idea to take it slow at first and remember to warm up before strenuous activities. Remember, your body may not have done these activities since last year, so take it easy and avoid an injury or strain.
Mental Health Concerns
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real concern for millions of people all over the US. Symptoms such as fatigue, depression, hopelessness and social withdrawal can be red flags for those prone to this mental health disease. The disorder is thought to be caused by the changes in circadian rhythm (level and duration of sunlight during the day) which are a natural part of the fall calendar.
More than just the winter blues, this form of depression has been known to lead to substance abuse, other mental health disorders, and even suicidal thoughts or behavior. The good news is, it’s a very treatable problem. So if you feel that you might be suffering from SAD, it’s important to seek help early. And if you have friends or loved ones who seem to be down this time of year, or who appear to be avoiding social activities and friendly contact, be sure to drop in and check on them.
What Should You Do if You Need Medical Treatment?
Even if you’re careful about germs, keep a perfectly balanced diet through the season, and don’t engage in any sort of risky activity, you may still need medical assistance at some point. When you’re feeling poorly this time of year, the last thing you want to do is spend Christmas at the ER or New Years Eve in some urgent care clinic. Fortunately, there’s a better option.
This year, if illness or injury strikes, call in a team from DispatchHealth to help you feel better, right from the comfort of home. They’ll send ER-trained medical professionals right to your living room to treat you quickly with the best health remedies available. But what if you’re traveling? Good news! They’ll meet you at your home, hotel room or even Grandma’s house.