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Health niggles killing your Christmas spirit? Here’s how to fight back
t’s a tale as old as time: you finally get a well-deserved break, when suddenly you’re struck down with what seems like the 12 plagues of Christmas. But don’t worry… we have expert advice on how to help stop those classic culprits dimming your festive sparkle.
‘Leisure sickness’ (getting ill as soon as we slow down) has been recognised by some scientists and may be one of the reasons so many of us seem to get nasties such as norovirus and flu at this time of year. Both of these joy-suckers can be accompanied by temperatures of 38°C or above, headaches and aching limbs – with norovirus adding vomiting and diarrhoea to the line-up!
SHIELD YOURSELF ‘Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on surfaces for up to 24 hours, while norovirus can be spread by virus particles picked up on the hands (from contaminated food or surfaces) being transferred to the mouth,’ says Boots pharmacist Scot Taylor. So wash your hands regularly with warm water and soap, and keep surfaces such as your phone, keyboard and door handles clean. Also, the NHS recommends getting a vaccination against flu before flu season begins. It can help protect everyone, including the vulnerable, who are more at risk of complications such as pneumonia. Check if you qualify for a free NHS flu vaccination at boots.com/flujab. Boots offers a private Winter Flu Vaccination Service and a Pneumonia Vaccination Service to help keep you protected. Visit boots.com/flujab or boots.com/pneumonia, or ask in store, for more information.
FIGHT IT ‘With flu and norovirus, it’s all about plenty of rest and fluids,’ says Scot. ‘You can also consider taking ibuprofen or paracetamol to lower your temperature and treat any pain.’ Got flu? Be kind and do your bit to stop it spreading. You’re most likely to pass on the virus in the first five days, so if you’re sneezing, use a tissue, then put it straight in the bin.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. A US study of people with chronic pain found that more than half reported a change in their symptoms before rain or cold weather. Some experts pin this on the change in atmospheric pressure. But Christmas festivities getting in the way of your usual workout can also lead to more aches and pains: ‘Our exercise plans often go out of the window at this time of year and for those prone to mild joint stiffness, this lack of regular exercise sometimes doesn’t help,’ says Scot.
SHIELD YOURSELF ‘Try to incorporate exercises that fit in with your usual routine, such as getting off the bus a stop earlier,’ says Scot. ‘Anything that keeps you moving.’
FIGHT IT ‘Warmth from heated wheat packs, deep-heat rubs and baths can all help to soothe aches and pains,’ Scot explains. If you’re creakier than a Victorian townhouse, consider Deep Heat Pain Relief Heat Patch, £5.99/599 points (4 patches).
It’s your office Christmas do: the lights are low, spirits are high, the music’s pumping, but… you’ve given up talking to anyone, as you can’t hear a word they say. ‘Struggling with hearing against background noise is normal, but if the noise is too loud and you are exposed for a continued period of time, you may be causing long-term damage to your hearing,’ says Boots hearing expert Karen Shepherd. ‘In fact, one in six people in the UK is affected by hearing loss, and the numbers are predicted to rise.’ Try this handy hack: ‘If lowering the volume or moving away from the noise source isn’t an option, sit in a well-lit area so it’s easier to lip-read, or in a booth,’ advises Karen. ‘This will “trap” and amplify the sound of your conversation.’
SHIELD YOURSELF ‘Don’t be afraid to ask the venue to turn down the music. If you’re struggling to hear, then it’s likely that others will be, too,’ says Karen.
FIGHT IT Try Alpine Ear Plugs (see bootshearingcare.com for details), to help protect your ears from excessive music noise. But if you have any concerns about your hearing, ask about Boots’ free in-store hearing checks, or book an appointment at bootshearingcare.com
These are most likely to be chilblains, and around one in ten of us will get them at some stage of our life. While many people assume they only affect the fingers and toes, other common ‘hot spots’ are the ears and nose. Chilblains are caused by a reaction to cold temperatures: blood vessels in the skin narrow, but when the skin warms up again, they fill up too quickly, causing blood to leak into the surrounding tissue, which can lead to swelling and itching.
SHIELD YOURSELF ‘Smokers and people regularly exposed to the cold are more at risk, along with those with poor circulation,’ says Scot. ‘Warm shoes on the radiator before you put them on, and moisturise your feet regularly to help prevent the skin cracking. And warm up slowly after coming in from the cold – don’t plant your feet next to a heater!’ For advice on cutting down or quitting smoking, visit boots.com/stopsmoking
FIGHT IT ‘Chilblains usually get better after a week or two, but it may help to use a soothing lotion, such as calamine or witch hazel,’ says Scot. Consider Boots Pharmaceuticals Calamine Lotion B.P, £1.39/139 points (200ml); always read the label.
It’s not just the winter sniffles you can pretty much bank on at this time of year. It’s also totally normal to…
1 …revert to being a child as soon as you step over your parents’ threshold
2 …make munching through Quality Street your day’s sole objective
3 …come close to starting WWIII over a game of Scrabble
4 …pull out some Academy Award-worthy acting when you open a present you can’t stand (thank you, GCSE Drama)
Words Rosie Benson Photography Alamy, Getty Images