Christmas Health Survival Tips

13 Dec 2011

With a host of potential slip-ups to avoid, here’s our advice for getting through the festive season with your health intact

It’s the time of year when family, friends, decorations, presents and mistletoe all come together to create a festive bundle of joy. But although ‘tis the season to be jolly, ‘tis also the season of household accidents and potential life threatening scenarios. What with the combination of food, drink, haphazard decorations, and small children running about, it’s a miracle any of us lived to tell the tale of last year’s celebrations. But fear not! You can still have a cracking Christmas with our handy guide for seasonal survival

Christmas Calamity
Food poisoning from an undercooked turkey
It’s something every Christmas host dreads - hearing that your guests got sick from your cooking. To avoid illness, embarrassment, and being the butt of family jokes for the next decade or two (we have discovered that family members are much like elephants - they never forget), make sure your turkey is poison-proof.
Be prepared: Make sure you cook your turkey correctly, advises Mövenpick’s chef Borchardt. “Unwrap the frozen turkey and keep it upright overnight in the refrigerator on a dripping tray. This way, the excess liquid can drain off without contaminating the turkey. Keep the skin covered with a wet towel,” he says. “All turkeys come with the correct thawing instructions so please follow them strictly. Keep the defrosted turkey away from any other raw or cooked food items and ensure that all equipment surfaces have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitised. Repeat the same steps after the turkey has been prepared to avoid cross-contamination,” he adds. Make sure your turkey is completely thawed before you put it in the oven; use a wire rack to cook it on and (using a thermometer) make sure that the inside has reached the minimum safe temperature of 65 degrees.
If disaster strikes: If you have food poisoning, avoid food and drink for several hours then try to rehydrate with oral fluids (water, tea and yoghurt),” says Dr. Adham Alameddin, medical director of Synergy Medical Centre, Dubai. “If the symptoms persist for more than 24 hours, then it’s best to consult a doctor for further investigations and treatment.”

Christmas Calamity
Cutting your finger on a sharp knife
Are you a professional chef or relation of Delia Smith? No? Then don’t try to speed-chop your vegetables like one. We know you’re in a rush, but no one wants to find a finger in amongst the broccoli.
Be prepared: Chef Borchardt explains, “To avoid cutting yourself, never spread your fingers out completely. Instead, hold the food item to be chopped with your fingers in a slight bent position, using the outside of your fingers as a guide for the blade. Don’t rush - slowly rotate the knife in a circular motion and slice the item without applying direct pressure onto it with the knife, as this will only destroy the structure of the product and cause accidents.”
If disaster strikes: Dr. Alameddin advises that the wound should be pressed strongly enough to stop the bleeding, and the arm should be held up. When the bleeding has stopped, the wound should be cleaned and dressed properly with care. If the bleeding remains active, a pressure dressing should be applied and you should take the victim to hospital for further treatment.

Christmas Calamity
What is it about roast dinner that renders our ability to know when we are full useless? If you have spent a Christmas Day crying because you ate too many potatoes (seriously, just us?), over eating is something you need to watch out for.
Be prepared: Just because it’s Christmas, there’s no need to let your healthy eating habits go to pot, explains Good Habits UAE founder and nutritionist Carole Holditch. “Plan what you’re going to eat and deliberately include one or two more treats than usual such as a slice of Christmas cake or a mince pie. This will not blow your whole week! It is only unplanned bingeing that does that. Allow yourself to savour the taste of food and don’t binge for the sake of it,” she advises.
If disaster strikes: First things first - put down that chicken drumstick and lay off the feasting for a while. Anti-indigestion medication can help (your pharmacist should be able to recommend the right one), but you should seek medical advice if you experience regular indigestion or unusually painful indigestion as it could be the cause of an underlying medical condition, according to

Christmas Calamity
Putting your back out carrying the Christmas tree
Everyone loves a big Christmas tree - it makes a house look festive, hides that weird stain on the wall, and there’s loads of room underneath for all the presents. But someone has to carry it in, and if that person is you, beware the wrong stance; you could end up observing the celebrations from the floor.
Be prepared: “Lifting heavy objects should be avoided as it’s not good for you,” advises Dr. Rasha Jabri, chief of Pain Medicine at Tawam Hospital. But if that doesn’t get you out of tree carrying duties, lift with caution. “If you simply must lift something heavy, then it’s important to bend from the knees and use the knees and arm and leg muscles to do the work to minimise risk of injury,” she adds.
If disaster strikes: If you’ve managed to put your back out on the big day, Jabri explains that you should rest and avoid any activity which causes discomfort (no washing up duty for you!). “Take a hot bath, and use over the counter pain-killers,” she says. “A back sprain will more often than not get better in a few days, so if pain persists it’s important to consult your doctor, who might recommend an x-ray or MRI. However if the pain caused by the back injury is not limited to your back - if you feel numbness and tingling down the legs - go to the doctor immediately as this could be an indication that you have slipped a disk.”

Christmas Calamity
Inhaling smoke from setting the food on fire
Relatives with food rage are the least of your worries if you’ve managed to set the turkey on fire - smoke inhalation can be deadly if left untreated, so you need to deal with the coughing before you even begin to think about the burnt food.
Be prepared: The US Fire Administration (USFA) says that the most common cause of kitchen fires is unattended cooking, so make sure you keep an eye on the food, as opposed to the festivities. The USFA advises would-be chefs to keep anything flammable away from the stove, keep pets out of the kitchen and avoid wearing loose clothing which could dangle over hobs and catch alight.
If disaster strikes: First, be sensible. If it’s a tiny bit of smoke coming from a slightly crisp potato, just air out the kitchen and avoid the area until the smoke has cleared. If it’s an actual fire, it’s time to get the professionals involved. Call 997 for the fire department and 999 for an ambulance. Victims of smoke inhalation need to be monitored closely as taking in smoke can cause serious damage to the respiratory system - if you have inhaled smoke you must get checked out properly.

Christmas Calamity
Being hit on the head by a champagne cork
Everyone has experienced that terrifying moment when an overenthusiastic relatives shakes the champagne and aims it towards a table of trembling guests. So if Uncle Bernard has a tendency to do some damage with the Moët, pry the bottle away and take our advice.
Be prepared: Learn to pop that champagne like a professional. David Lescarret, operations manager, Cavalli Club, Restaurant & Lounge says: “To ensure your safety when opening a bottle of champagne, the bottle should be held by the base in the left hand, with the cork pointing straight upwards. The foil and ring wire around the cork should then be removed and discarded. Holding the wine and cork firmly in the right hand with a downward pressure to avoid the cork popping out too suddenly, the bottle should be turned slowly clockwise in the left hand, whilst the right hand on the cork controls the speed at which the cork comes out. This should be done slowly, easing the cork out as it should never ‘pop’ but ‘hiss’.”
If disaster strikes: If you’re the unlucky recipient of a cork to the head, “press the area with an ice compress to reduce the swelling and take pain killers if needed,” says Dr. Alameddin.