Watch the turkey, the drink and the weather – and help NHS services make it a happy Christmas

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UNDER-COOKED turkeys, over-indulged stomachs and freezing weather are just some of the perils which could make your festive season less than merry – but a few common sense precautions should help you cope with the worst that winter may throw at us.

That is the message from Lisa O’Reilly, Service Manager at the Hanley Health and Wellbeing Centre in Stafford Street, Hanley, Stoke, which is run on behalf of the local NHS by Care UK.

Lisa offered the following advice to people to help ensure a healthy festive period and relieve unnecessary pressure on health services, particularly during the holiday period.

“At this time of year we spend a lot of time visiting friends and relatives and, unfortunately, can bring unwanted gifts such as the flu. Flu, particularly for older people and people in certain at risk groups, can be an extremely serious illness. If you are over 65, pregnant or in an ‘at risk’ category – this includes people with diabetes and chronic heart, chest or kidney conditions – flu vaccinations are free. If you haven’t already done so, contact your GP surgery for a flu jab.

“Cold weather can be potentially fatal for older people, both in terms of hypothermia and slips and falls. Dressing warmly with several light layers of clothing, moving beds or chairs away from cold exterior walls, eating properly, taking regular warm drinks and staying active can all help people minimise the risk of hypothermia. If you know an older person living on their own, keep an eye out for them over the festive period. Why not take round a slice of Christmas cake and some Christmas cheer?

“Be prepared for minor health problems by keeping a well-stocked medicines cupboard that contains paracetamol, ibuprofen, indigestion remedies, cough mixture, mild laxatives and other medication that your family may need. Always read the label, be aware of any other medication you may be taking and keep out of the reach of young ones.

“Patients with repeat prescriptions should make sure they have enough medication to see them through the holiday period but, please, do not over-order. Repeat prescriptions can be obtained from pharmacists if you run out during the holiday period but there may be a charge.

“There is nothing wrong with a Christmas drink but try not to over-do it. If you are going out for a few drinks, it is best to eat beforehand and alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. If you are drinking alcohol, don’t risk driving – take the late bus, nominate a driver or arrange for a taxi to take you home.

“Believe it or not, one of the most common causes of ailments over Christmas is the turkey. Handled and cooked incorrectly, it can give very nasty food poisoning. Here are some tips from the Food Standards Agency to bear in mind.

  • Don’t wash your turkey. Washing a raw turkey is unnecessary and can spread germs. Harmful bacteria can easily splash from raw meat and poultry onto worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. Germs that cause food poisoning can also linger for days in the sink
  • Make sure you get your turkey out soon enough so that it is totally defrosted right through to the centre before you start cooking it. Cooking it whilst still partially frozen will significantly increase the chance of dangerous bacteria surviving the cooking process and causing food poisoning
  • Make sure your turkey is cooked thoroughly. Check your bird is steaming hot all the way through. Cook the stuffing separately, rather than stuffing it in the bird, as this helps the bird cook thoroughly
  • Defrost your leftovers thoroughly. Eat defrosted leftovers within 24 hours and do not refreeze.”

If you need treatment over the Christmas and New year holiday period, there are a number of options available to you. These include:

GP cover: If you feel unwell and believe you need to contact a doctor outside normal surgery hours, telephone 111 to access the NHS 111 service. This service will be able to offer advice and direct you to the appropriate place to help with your ailment. Only if your situation is life-threatening should you call 999.

The Hanley Health and Wellbeing Centre: The centre is open 8am-8pm, 365 days a year for walk-in patients. These extended hours have also made it a very popular choice with patients who have chosen it as their registered GP surgery. Further information can be obtained on 0300 123 6759.

Pharmacies: Your local pharmacists are qualified to offer expert help and advice on medicines (prescribed and over-the-counter) as well as many other ailments such as sore throats, colds and flu, mouth problems, minor grazes and headaches. Most people live near to a community pharmacy and no appointment is necessary.

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