As people across south Wales prepare for a very different celebration this year, the emergency medical team at Cwm Taf Morgannwg has issued some festive-themed advice to help everyone keep safe and healthy this Christmas.
The health board has published its Twelve Days of Christmas Health Advice on its website and social media channels in a bid to encourage local residents to avoid getting ill as they finalise plans for their festive celebrations.
Dr Amanda Farrow, Clinical Lead at the Emergency Department at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, explains why the guide is so essential this year.
“In any normal year, the run-up to Christmas is a very busy time for medical staff across Cwm Taf Morgannwg, with the winter health pressures starting to show and lots of people suffering from accidents and injuries as the festive celebrations ramp up.
“This year, with all the added pressures of the COVID pandemic, we are already exceptionally busy so we want to make sure that people living in the area not only prepare sensibly for Christmas, to minimise the risk of getting unwell or needing medical help over the festive period, but also know how to access care in the right way, should they need it.”
Here is Cwm Taf Morgannwg’s Twelve Days of Christmas Health Advice:
1. Follow the Government’s COVID-19 guidelines
We are currently treating very high numbers of patients with coronavirus so the most important piece of advice we can give is to keep following the Government guidelines of handwashing, wearing face coverings and social distancing. Remember that COVID won’t go away just because it’s Christmas so think carefully about your actions and the consequences they can have.
2. Stick within your bubble
We know that lots of families were desperately looking forward to meeting with family members they may not have seen for many months but, with COVID rates still rising steeply in our communities, this has now been reduced to seeing one other household (and an additional single person who lives alone) on Christmas Day only. When meeting up with another household, please be mindful of the risk of infection, particularly with older and more vulnerable relatives. COVID-19 spreads from person to person through small droplets and through direct contact so don’t forget to socially distance and keep washing your hands! Avoid sharing glasses, cutlery and nibbles and when playing games, try to avoid those which require close physical contact.
3. Get your flu jab
Avoid other unnecessary illnesses this winter by getting the flu vaccine. Flu can be serious and each year causes thousands of people to go to hospital. Getting the flu jab is one of the best things you can do to help the NHS as it will mean fewer people will need hospital treatment. Anyone who is aged 50 and over, is pregnant, has a long-term health condition, is in long-stay residential care, receives a carer’s allowance, lives with someone who is at high risk from coronavirus or is a frontline health or social care worker can get vaccinated at their GP surgery or certain pharmacies.
4. Stock up on medicines
If you’re on long-term medication or have a chronic condition, make sure you pick up your prescription medicines in plenty of time before Christmas, as many pharmacies will be unavailable for a number of days. Also stock up on over-the-counter medicines such as painkillers, cold and flu medication, indigestion remedies and first aid supplies such as plasters and bandages so that you’re prepared for any unexpected Christmas illnesses and help ease the burden on your local surgery.
5. Drink sensibly
The fact that our pubs are closing early with no alcohol being served is sure to bring down the numbers of booze-fuelled Christmas party injuries seen in our Emergency Departments this year. However, we are still seeing plenty of alcohol-related accidents at home as people over-indulge. We’re not suggesting that you don’t drink at all this festive season but be aware of your alcohol intake, try to avoid binge drinking and space out alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or water. Check out www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/alcoholic-drinks-and-units/what-is-an-alcohol-unit for more information.
6. Take care in the kitchen
Hot fat, boiling water and sharp knives make the kitchen one of the most dangerous rooms in the house, particularly at Christmas when there are more people around than usual. If you do burn or scald yourself, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/burns-and-scalds/ to find out how they should be treated. Try to keep others, especially children and pets, out of the kitchen while you are cooking and wipe up any spills as soon as they happen, so that people don’t slip. And take care when chopping the Christmas veg.
7. Avoid poisoning your bubble!
None of us wants to be responsible for making the family ill over Christmas, so once you have bought your turkey, make sure you store it at the right temperature or defrost it thoroughly if you buy frozen. Some large turkeys can take a couple of days to thaw completely. Never wash raw meat and make sure you get it in the oven early enough as eating undercooked poultry is a sure-fire way of getting food poisoning. Take care when reheating leftover meat, wash all fruit and vegetables and don’t eat any food that has been left on the table for more than two hours.
8. Beware of fire hazards
The combination of candles and dry branches on Christmas trees could be a recipe for disaster so make sure open flames are never placed near the tree or any other decorations. Also check your fairy lights for any faulty wires and don’t overload power supplies as this can cause electrical fires.
9. Watch out for small parts
Small parts from toys or gadgets or crackers can easily become a choking hazard for children over Christmas. Remember that although novelty tree decorations may look like toys, they do not have to comply with toy safety standards and may be dangerous so keep them out of reach and make sure you know what to do if your child does start choking. See
www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/helping-choking-baby/ for advice.
10. Get any serious health concerns checked before the holidays
If there are any serious health concerns that have been worrying you in the run-up to Christmas, such as unexplained weight loss, lumps, persistent bloating or a pain that does not go away, don’t wait until the New Year to get them checked out. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress and worry if you contact your GP before they close for the Christmas bank holiday weekend. If you need health advice and your GP surgery is closed, you can call 111, the new easy to remember shared number for NHS Direct Wales and the GP out of hours service.
11. Bring a bag of essential items
If you do find that you have to go into hospital as an emergency over Christmas, please bring your medications or a list of medications with you as well as any relevant paperwork such as DNACPR forms or Advance Care Plans. Also make sure you bring a bag of essential items including a face mask, night clothes, antiseptic wipes, any toiletries you might need, a bottle of water and a mobile phone and charger. We’re having to restrict visitor numbers in our hospitals at the moment so remember, they won’t be able to pop in with any bits you need.
12. Help Us Help You
We understand that people might be more worried than usual about visiting their doctor or going into hospital this Christmas. We want to reassure our local residents that they can still get whatever care they need over the festive period and can get it safely.
To help us help you, however, it is essential that you access the right service in the right way, depending on your symptoms. You can often get the help you need without a trip to the GP or the Emergency department, freeing up the emergency medical teams to concentrate on people with urgent, life-threatening conditions.
For example, if you have a broken bone, sprain or minor burn, you can be treated much more effectively in a Minor Injury Unit than in the ED. Pharmacies are a key service if you are feeling unwell or have minor health concerns. And if you need out of hours health information or advice, NHS 111 Wales is available 24 hours a day every day. Simply dial 111 and they can advise you on the best course of action.
If you need care for an urgent life-threatening condition, you should still call 999.
If you have Covid-19 symptoms no matter how mild, self-isolate and book a test.