Every January, without fail, we are greeted with headlines about an NHS inundated with emergencies over the festive period. It seems that Christmas 2015 slightly bucked the trend with 'only' 278,000 attendances at A&E in the week leading up to the New Year, compared with more than 310,000 for the same period in 2014. However, no one really wants to spend their Christmas in a fluorescent lit waiting room when they could be tucking into mince pies and watching an Only Fools and Horses re run.
There are a few active health steps and a few precautions you can take to reduce the likelihood of ending up in A&E.
Do stay well by...
Moderating your drinking - Christmas is a time for a bit of excess, but we Brits do tend to take it a bit far when it comes to office parties or even that extra glass of Baileys in front of the TV. It's not just at Christmas - A&E visits for alcohol poisoning 'doubled in six years.' Consider choosing a drink with less alcohol content, staying hydrated or even trying to cut back altogether.
Giving yourself a health boost by upping your vitamin C intake, ensuring you're eating as many fruit and vegetables as possible - you know you want extra brussels sprouts. If you do start to feel like you're coming down with something, be proactive and take zinc supplements within 24 hours, as it has been shown to reduce the severity of your symptoms and speed up your recovery.
Think ahead when it comes to your medicinal needs - requesting prescriptions in advance and talking with your pharmacist ahead of time can mean the difference between getting your regular prescriptions and being left without and in need of an A&E visit.
Don't put yourself or family at risk by...
Taking risks in the kitchen - cooking that Christmas dinner especially for large numbers of people can open you up to burns from hot fat and cuts from sharp knives, especially carving that ham. Lots of accidents also result from being tipsy while cooking, so lay off until the hot plates are on the table. Keeping young children out of the way may not only reduce their chance of injury in the kitchen, but might help your stress levels too!
Giving everyone food poisoning - given that we only usually cook a turkey once a year, it is understandable you may be nervous about the looming threat of gastroenteritis. There are around 250,000 cases of food poisoning related to poultry every year, so avoid becoming one of these statistics by ensuring you defrost frozen turkey properly, and prepare it appropriately, keeping the raw poultry and anything that has touched it away from ready to eat food. When its time to pop it in the oven, ensure you've left enough time to cook it thoroughly and that the juices run clear, your guests will thank you!
Leaving things within little ones' reach - decorations, presents and new foods are eye catching for youngsters, and toddlers often explore with their mouths. A particular concern in children is button batteries, which are found in so many toys and Christmas decorations, and are easily swallowed or put up the nose, but can actually burn through the lining/tissue its lodged in, and could be fatal. If you have young children in the house just ensure that there is a 'safe area' for them to play in. Whether that means creating a little present zone out of sight of the youngest revellers where alcoholic drinks, sharp objects and the like can be kept or ensuring that your tree is safely secured with baubles and lights positioned above crawling or even toddler height.
In a lot of cases A&E might not be the right choice for your situation. With a lot of NHS surgeries closed or running a reduced service over the festive period, you may think A&E is the only option, but it's not. Pharmacies are often still open and are an excellent resource, you can also dial 111 to access NHS Direct and GP out-of-hours, or you can contact medical helplines like Dr Morton's - the medical helpline which has GP's on call on the phone or email, so if you do get sick with a minor ailment, these are worth a try before a trip to A+E.