Dr Chris Luke's 12 step guide to staying out of the ED this Christmas.

Dr Chris Luke outlines the 12 ways to ending up in an emergency department this Christmas. Or not!

Dr Chris Luke's 12 step guide to staying out of the ED this Christmas.

Dr Chris Luke outlines the 12 ways to ending up in an emergency department this Christmas. Or not!

1. Booze

A much loved and valued social lubricant in the right dose, but taken in excess, it is the source of most mischief and misery over the festive season (due to accidents and fights), as well as the most common “legacy” (the average ½ stone weight gain after Christmas, because alcohol = fermented sugar + “the munchies”; 1 bottle and a glass = 14 units = the current total weekly recommended intake (for male and female).

Tip: choose your booze; cater for non-drinkers with things like “Clean Gin”, “Zero” beer, 7% wine + water; etc

2. Birds

The single biggest culinary question at this time of year, especially for occasional or novice cooks (like myself), is “how long should I cook the turkey or goose for?” And understandably so, given that the bird is both the greatest gastronomic pleasure and the greatest gastrointestinal peril.

The key message is that food poisoning from the bird is a clear and present danger unless you (a) keep the bird away from all other food; (b) make sure that bloody turkey juice doesn’t drip on to other edible material in the fridge or surfaces; (c) ensure that the frozen turkey is defrosted over many hours in the fridge; (d) use a separate chopping board for the fowl; (e) use a thermometer placed in the middle of the thigh (meaty/fleshy part), away from hot bone (looking for > 70 degrees C reading).

Tip: keep the turkey in the bottom of the fridge, use Safefood turkey calculator and a thermometer) safefood.eu

3. Burns

Christmas time typically sees a surge in hospital attendances with accidents in the house.

The most devastating of these are burns, from the now-rare open fire or electric bar heaters: but the great tragedy is a toddler grabbing a dangling kettle flex, or the handle of a pan of boiling water, and tipping boiling water onto themselves, especially in a fraught kitchen, with a slightly tipsy or tormented cook, who may also burn themselves with the same water or steam.

Tip: check the smoke/CO alarms; get fire blanket etc; keep “flammables” and heat apart

4. Batteries

For instance in novelty cards and watches, ingested by a toddler and - once moistened by oesophageal or salivary juices - they can create a little electrical current burning though the gullet by or damaging the vocal cords, etc. About 90% end up in the nose or ear, but about 10% get into the gullet and stomach.

Tip: Lock them away from the young/confused; and likewise with magnets

5. Falls

Decorating the tree mainly, but also tripping over toys and baubles scattered over the stairs and various floors.

And, of course, just outside the house on that icy sheen, when leaving, “well-oiled".

Tip: get a sturdy stepladder and decorate with someone else. Keep the floor clear. Scatter soil or salt outside to prevent slips and falls

6. Fighting

Alcohol is the most effective of all “accelerants” when it comes to bickering, altercation and assault.

It is also the most effective “solvent” when it comes to dissolving a relationship, marital or otherwise.

Tip: identify those who are belligerent with booze, and keep them sober; a robust umpire helps.

7. Food Poisoning

Temperature is critical: a bacterium’s idea of bliss is a temperature between 5 - 60 degrees Celsius plus warm moist fingers to convey them from poo to plate (eg a fridge door ajar, and a cook who is in a hurry, forgetting to wash their hands after a trip to the toilet)

Tip: repeatedly wash your hands with soap and warm water; serve leftovers piping hot; ensure they are properly cold when going into the fridge for two days max; proper cooking/cleaning. If you do get ill, manage it with flat lemonade, bed, Paracetamol, and keep away from the hospital unless you are ill for more than two-to three days

8. Fingertips

Christmas sees a surge in fingertip amputations due to a cocktail of sharp knives, booze and inexperience; other hazards include cutting wrapping paper with a carving knife.

Tip: “claw” the fingers when cutting [pretend to have a cat’s claws] and get a round-tipped scissors

9. Tree

This is often central in the decoration of our homes and, rightly, a delight. But it is also a threat. A seriously dry tree is a bundle of kindling, waiting to be lit by an ember from an open fire, or a spark from a malfunctioning set of tree lights.

Fire is the greatest threat to any household and the risks include the perennial open fire or a dropped cigarette, combined with booze, but the particular seasonal hazards are the flammable decorations, faulty fairy lights, and candles.

And the greatest of them all, the “giant fire lighter” that is a tinder-dry Christmas tree.

Tip: get a sturdy stepladder, and an assistant in decorating. Get a moist/fresh tree, and keep it so with water in the base. Place it one metre from a hot radiator and three metres from an open fire. Buy/test smoke and CO alarms/extinguisher/blanket

10. Toys

Toys are synonymous with the festive season, and they are now given in industrial quantities in many houses.

Toys will cause an astonishing number and variety of injuries to humans and pets this Christmas. Toddlers will put little todys up their noses or into their mouths, as will dogs; and bare-footed adults will stand on them, launch themselves downstairs or slip and fall in the hall or front room.

And lasers and pellets will blind people, drones will be controversial and children will roar because there are no batteries. And parents will roar because someone has swallowed a battery.

Tip: make sure toys have the right batteries. And the toys are tidied away. And broken baubles too.

11. Too Much of Everything

Weight gain (c. 2 kg typically), hangovers and brain fog after too much partying can leave the average party animal feeling desperate for another holiday.

Or anxious to get back to the daily grind. Sometimes, it is possible to have too much exertion, and it is not advisable to do too vigorous a Gangnam-style dad-dance, if you are out of practice.

Tip: remember that a glass of wine and a mince pie each contain about 200 calories; aim to get the 10,000 steps in every day with lots of fresh air, for you and the dog; and get plenty of sleep.

12. The Pets

Noise and strangers and lots of strange edible stuff are the main hazards to man’s best friends.

The range of toxic ingestions is almost infinite, but probably the riskiest include baubles, batteries, beads, chocolates, sultanas and poinsettias.

Tip: keep the pets away from temptation. And if they become abruptly ill, head for the vet.

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