There are many heat-related illnesses that might send you on an emergency hospital trip this holiday!
As cited by the ABC News in their interview with Lucinda Coates, a risk scientist in Macquarie University, more deaths in Australia are due to extremely hot weather than from other natural hazards and disease epidemics.
The holiday season, which falls in the summer, is coming and you don’t want any illness to ruin the celebration, right? So watch out for the following Christmas holiday spoilers and learn how to prevent and/or deal with them!
The first illness that you should be concerned with is gastroenteritis.
Christmas Holiday Spoiler #1 – Inflammation of the Stomach or Gastroenteritis
Gastroenteritis or stomach flu is an infection or inflammation of the stomach and intestines (digestive system). This is not related to the flu that affects your breathing (respiratory system).
Gastroenteritis is a common foodborne infection you may encounter during festivities such as Christmas. It’s the time of the year when your fridge is overloaded with food. The overwhelming amount of food preparation and the rush compromise food safety procedures during this time, which increase the risk of foodborne infections like gastroenteritis.
Bacteria, viruses and parasites including norovirus, hepatitis A virus, rotavirus, Campylobacter, E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella and Giardia cause gastroenteritis. You can get this digestive infection if you ingest anything contaminated with these germs or their toxins. The common sources of this infection are contaminated food, water, soil, infected humans and animals.
Why should you take caution against gastroenteritis?
Gastroenteritis is highly contagious, particularly when it’s caused by norovirus. When you are infected, you will have sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea. You will have persistent stomach cramps, low grade fever, fatigue and body aches. The infection may last for 1-3 days, but very young children, especially toddlers, may suffer for up to 1 week.
To prevent gastroenteritis, safe and hygienic food handling is the key. Likewise, boosting your gut health will give you better chance of not acquiring this particular digestive infection.
Here are some tips for you:
- Always wash your hands before handling food, after handling raw meat seafood or poultry, after using the toilet, after handling rubbish or after touching your pets.
- Wash cutting knives and chopping board that have been used with raw meat, seafood or poultry with warm soapy water before using them on other food. As much as possible, use a different knife and chopping board for raw foods and ready-to-eat foods.
- Buy your seafood from a reputable source. A cooler will be useful in transporting seafood safely.
- Store cold food below 5 degrees centigrade.
- Add probiotics to your daily diet by ingesting foods such as yogurt, kefir, sour pickles, and kombucha. Probiotics protect your digestive health by increasing good bacteria to fight the bad bugs that can cause gastroenteritis.
- When you have gastroenteritis increase fluid intake to replace fluid loss from vomiting and loose bowel movements. Dehydration is the main cause of hospitalization among people who have gastroenteritis.
WARNING: Do not take over-the-counter medicine for vomiting and diarrhea unless prescribed by the doctor.
So, we move on to the next Christmas holiday spoiler? Now, let’s talk about heat stroke…
Christmas Holiday Spoiler #2 -Heat Stroke
Heat stroke or sunstroke is one of the severe heat injuries common during the hottest months, which happens to be from December to February here in Australia.
Heat stroke occurs when your body’s temperature control system fails due to prolonged exposure to high temperature (heat of the sun or poorly ventilated and hot environment) accompanied by dehydration.
Why heat stroke is a medical emergency?
Heat stroke is considered a medical emergency because it can cause damage to your internal organs, particularly your brain. Your symptoms may start with mild heat-related symptoms such as heat cramps, nausea, dizziness, throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting and exhaustion. Then it will progress to more severe symptoms such as a body temperature of more than 40 degrees Celsius (skin is red, hot and dry), disorientation or confusion, seizure, loss of consciousness and even coma. Rapid heartbeat and rapid, shallow breathing are also evident.
Worst of all, heat stroke is deadly. There is a minimum of over 4,000 fatalities each year in Australia from heat-related causes, which include the silent killer heat stroke.
To keep you safe from heat stroke, here are some tips for you:
- As much as possible, stay in a well-ventilated place- air-conditioned would be ideal. If possible, avoid outdoor activities between 10am-4pm.
- If you need to go outdoors, wear loose, light-colored and lightweight clothing. A wide-brimmed hat will provide extra shade too!
- Drink plenty of fluids. If you drink 8 glasses of water on regular days, add some extra fluids during hot weather to avoid dehydration, which is a major contributing factor to heat stroke.
- Limit intake of caffeinated food and drinks as they can cause dehydration.
- Call 000 and request for an ambulance.
- Keep the person under the shade and lay them down.
- Cool down. If the person is conscious, let them sip some cool fluids. Sponge them with cool water or put cool packs on their groin, armpit and back of the neck.
- If the person is unconscious, lay them on their side and check for signs of life (pulse and breathing). Perform CPR if required (no breathing, no pulse).
WARNING: Do not give aspirin or paracetamol.
But wait, that’s not all. There’s one more holiday spoiler to keep your eye on, and that is sunburn!
Christmas Holiday Spoiler #3 -Sunburn
It’s always hot in December as it is summer. You might have been planning to go on a camping trip this Christmas. There are many errands in preparation of the festivities, right? You will spend lots of time outdoors. So expect the possibility of having a sunburn unless you take some preventive measures!
Sunburn happens when you have over exposure to the sunlight. You will notice that your skin is warm to touch, reddish and tender. Sometimes blisters develop. If you have severe sunlight reactions, you may also experience nausea, fever and chills. After several days, your skin may peel and itch a bit.
However, sunburn should not be taken lightly. It’s a warning sign that you might be missing the bigger picture of the damaging effects of unprotected sun exposure.
Why you shouldn’t underestimate the health threats of sunburn?
Unprotected and overexposure to sunlight is often associated with premature skin aging. It will reduce your skin’s strength and elasticity. It also causes skin dryness, freckles, dark skin spots and deep wrinkles. Moreover, if the blisters from sunburn ruptures, it impairs your skin integrity that increases your susceptibility to skin infection. Likewise, too much sun exposure is a contributing factor to the development of skin cancer.
So don’t let sunburn spoil your holiday! Use the following sun protective tips:
- As much as possible avoid sun exposure between 10am to 4pm as this is the time when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest. Otherwise, keep yourself in shady spots when you are outdoors.
- Wear sun protective clothes. Light-colored clothing would be more appropriate as it deflects the sun’s rays compared to darker colors, which absorb heat. Wear long sleeves and pants. Choose a fabric that is lightweight and airy. Linen and cotton are great choices. Wide sunglasses will help in protecting your face as well. Use a wide-brimmed hat or an umbrella for extra shade.
- Apply organic sunscreen 30 minutes before going out. Choose a sunscreen that does not contain the following ingredients: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, retinyl palmitate, homosalate and paraben preservative. These ingredients do more harm than good to your skin and body. Check our article on “6 Scary Sunscreen Ingredients to Avoid” to keep you informed on how to properly choose your sunscreen.
- Boost your skin’s health naturally with natural skin serum or cream, which ideally contains essential oils from carrot seed, peach, red raspberry, meadowfoam, frankincense, rose damask, ylang ylang, rose, rosehip and palmarosa. It should also be rich in vitamin E, which has great sun protective properties.
Make no mistake and be ready for the Christmas holiday! Be even more ready in protecting your family from the 3 notorious holiday illnesses- don’t let them spoil the fun.
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