The holiday season is a time for food, family, and friends—but unfortunately, it can also be a time for health problems. Extended travel, staying in close quarters with many people, and cold weather can all leave you feeling less than stellar. If you find yourself needing medical attention during the holidays here in Minnesota, head to your nearest Urgency Room to be seen by a board-certified emergency physician.
In the meantime, it’s a wise idea to read up on some of the issues you might find yourself dealing with this holiday season. Here are some of the most common health problems people face during the holidays, and what to do about them.
Unless you live in sunny Florida, you’ll likely experience some chilly temperatures around this time of year. For those with asthma, cooler weather poses more of a threat than just simple discomfort. Cold air dries out your airways and produces histamine (an asthma trigger), leaving your air passages irritated and swollen. This phenomenon can lead to more pronounced asthma symptoms and even asthma attacks.
If you or a loved one suffers from asthma, don’t leave your preparations for when Minnesota’s winter chill is in full swing. Coordinate with your primary physician to better understand the ways in which the cold might trigger or otherwise affect your asthma. He or she will be able to adjust your treatment plan and perhaps prescribe additional medication. Keep your inhaler and any other prescriptions handy.
You can also work to prevent cold-induced asthma attacks by avoiding exercising outdoors in very cold weather, or at least wearing a scarf over your face to warm up the air before you breathe it in. Keep an eye on your asthma symptoms, and seek medical care if you experience a severe asthma attack or are in any way concerned about your health.
Slips and falls are common accidents year-round, but winter makes terrain significantly more treacherous. Those icy steps, sidewalks, and driveways are just asking someone to take a spill, and a sprained or twisted ankle is the frequent result. If you land or twist your foot in the wrong way, you may end up tearing or stretching the ligaments in your ankle. Depending on the severity of the injury, you may need to seek medical care. If the injury is less serious, you’ll just need to rest, ice, compress, and elevate your ankle for a few days. But if a ligament is fully torn, you’ll need to see a doctor, who may order an X-ray to eliminate the possibility of a fracture.
To avoid ankle injuries during the holiday season, make sure to stay aware of the environment. Shovel snow carefully, and salt your sidewalks and front steps to lessen the chances of slipping on ice. Sprained ankles don’t just occur outside, either—pick up toys and other objects from off the floor to minimize the risk of a painful tumble.
The holidays usher in lower temperatures and an increased chance of snow. But if you’re enjoying the outdoors with your family and friends, be on the lookout for signs of frostbite, which include numbness, clumsiness, skin blisters, and changes in skin color. This condition occurs when skin and the underlying tissues become frozen. Extremities that are frequently exposed to the cold, such as your fingers, nose, and ears, are at particular risk.
To prevent frostbite, keep an eye on the temperature outdoors, and make sure you and your loved ones are well-equipped before venturing outside. If the weather is chilly, windy, or wet, you should limit your exposure to the elements. If you do need to be outdoors, dress in layers of warm clothing, and don’t forget to wear mittens, a hat, and moisture-wicking socks.
It’s vital to recognize the early signs of frostbite, such as numbness and pain as the skin warms
- Acting quickly could save you from permanent nerve and skin damage. If you suspect you’re experiencing superficial or severe frostbite, seek medical care as soon as possible.
Carrots, nuts, and turkey bones are all common holiday foods—and they can also be common causes of choking. Food that gets caught in the throat can block the airway, cutting off airflow and starving the brain of oxygen. Symptoms like coughing, being unable to talk, and skin turning blue are all indicators that a person is choking. Unfortunately, thousands of people die from choking each year. But there are steps you can take to resolve a choking situation.
If you’re familiar with the Heimlich maneuver, you can administer abdominal thrusts to the person who is choking—you can even accomplish it on yourself with the help of a chair. Eventually, the person should expel the offending object, and their airway should be clear. But if the person becomes unresponsive, you’ll need to start CPR and seek emergency medical care. To lessen the risk of choking in the first place, cut those holiday dishes into small pieces, eat slowly, and chew food thoroughly before swallowing.
The common cold is one unpleasant inconvenience, but the flu is another matter entirely. Influenza is a viral infection that attacks the respiratory system, causing symptoms like fever, fatigue, sore throat, cough, sinus congestion, and vomiting. Because the flu is highly contagious, households crammed with guests and visiting family members are the perfect breeding ground for the infection. If someone in your household comes down with the flu, try to minimize contact, and frequently sanitize shared surfaces and appliances.
The severity of your flu symptoms will determine whether or not you need to seek medical care. You may recover with simple rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications. But more severe or lasting symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dehydration, or chest pain, may necessitate medical care. A board-certified physician can perform a test to determine what strain of influenza you’ve contracted and how best to treat it.
Stay Healthy During the Holidays
The last thing you want to deal with over the holidays is the hassle of locating medical care. But if you experience one of these common issues, you’ll likely need it. At The Urgency Room, we keep our doors open 365 days a year and our offices staffed with trained physicians who can quickly diagnose your problem and create a treatment plan. We have three convenient locations in Eagan, Vadnais Heights, and Woodbury. If you have any concerns about your health this holiday season, don’t hesitate to pay us a visit.