THE thought of naming an illness Christmas is shocking. Christmas disease, a hereditary blood disorder, also known as Haemophilia B or factor IX, has nothing to do with the day.
Even then, the fact that it is hereditary means if it were tied to Christmas, we would have limited control on avoiding it. Nevertheless, there are things that could cause us not to be on this side of existence by next Christmas, things that boil down to us.
Jerome Nsajju of the Injury Control Centre at Mulago Hospital says accidents peak during the festive season. However, because there are a lot of activities going on everywhere does not mean you have to end up in hospital or even dead this Christmas.
â€œChristmas comes once a year and life must continue. We must all be responsible,â€ Nsajju says. According to Judith Nabakoba, the deputy Police spokesperson, increased alcohol consumption is the leading cause of road accidents during this season.
â€œSome people get excited, but you should remember that your life comes first. Taking alcohol is not bad, but some people overdo it to the point that they lose their senses,â€ Nabakoba adds.
Research has shown that most hospital emergency rooms worldwide are 75% busier during this season. Compared to all holidays, New Yearâ€™s day has the greatest increase in traffic fatalities (64%) â€” about 40% of these involve drunk drivers.
â€œExcitement makes some people reckless, but there are also many holiday makers, especially post primary students who want to drive.
â€œParents should ensure that their children do not drive. People should be watch what they eat,â€ Nsajju adds.
He says pedestrians also have a role to play this Christmas season.
â€œFirst, wear bright colours which are easily noticed by drivers, especially at night. If there are pedestrian walks, use them, if not, walk on the right side of the road.
â€œWhen moving with children, walk with them hand in hand, do not leave them to walk behind or cross the road before or after you. Also make sure children walk on the extreme end of the road, away from the cars,â€ he advises.
Drivers should keep their alcohol consumption in check and drive between 40â€“50km per hour in a town or trading centre.
Nsajju says research shows that 68% of fire outbreaks are preventable. The increased activity, cooking and instances where adults leave children unattended to, have resulted in fires in which many a time, people have been burnt to death.
â€œMost fires occur due to negligence. When going to sleep, do not leave any candle burning. Also ensure that you put out the charcoal stove or gas cooker before you go to bed,â€ he says. Do not keep fuel in the house. Leaving hot water on the table exposes children to scalding.
Nsajju says, despite the Ebola outbreak, one can still go upcountry for Christmas. â€œIf someone is showing symptoms like high body temperature, fever, vomiting, or bleeding, you have reason to suspect Ebola.
Take precautions even if it is a loved one. You are your own keeper. By protecting yourself, you will be protecting others,â€ he adds.
Nsajju says when travelling in a public or personal vehicle, keep the windows down for good air circulation. This, he says, reduces chances of disease infections. Avoid the handshake like that popular one done after the church service.
Holiday heart hazards
A 2004 study carried out by the American Heart Foundation showed that holiday seasons, especially Christmas, could be hazardous to your health.
In the study which was published in the Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers examined records of 53 million deaths from natural causes over 26 years (1973-2001), excluding suicide, homicides and accidents.
They compared the number of deaths reported from December 25 to January 7, with the number of deaths that would have normally been expected at that time of year.
They found that death rates from heart attacks and stroke as well as non-heart-related causes shot up during the holiday season and the percentage of holiday deaths grew over time.
The researchers found that heart-related deaths occurred on December 25, than on any other day of the year, among people who were not in hospital. The second largest number of deaths was on the day after Christmas, and the third-highest peak occurred on New Yearâ€™s day.
Health and medication
Although the Christmas excitement may play a role in increasing the risk of heart attack and other ailments, researchers say people tend to put off seeking medical attention during Christmas.
This is a deadly thing to do. So, seek medical advice if you feel unwell. If you are on daily medication, especially for diabetes, antiretroviral therapy, hypertension, asthma or cancer, stock enough medication as pharmacies may be closed.
Do not over eat. Just because there is plenty of food does not mean you should take on a self-appointed role of ensuring nothing goes to waste. While travelling, you may also have to forego that much loved â€˜chicken on a stickâ€™ sold by the roadside. â€œPack your food or control your appetite,â€ Nsajju advises.
Diarrhoea is a common problem during festive seasons. Eating contaminated, spoilt and stale foods (especially those which are not refrigerated after meals) causes of diarrhoea.
Diarrhoea is sometimes accompanied by cramps, vomiting, headache and fever. But the symptoms may occur even without eating contaminated food.
Proper food handling, dish washing and hand-washing are practices that minimise contamination. When diarrhoea persists for more than two days, go to a hospital.
But while others are celebrating, some are sad. Christmas blues is a form of mild depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It happens to many normal and healthy people, during the festive season.
According to psychologists, Christmas brings out, in most of us, our good and better qualities, such as youthfulness, honesty, sincerity, compassion and humanity.
During this season, many become more critical of themselves and their past actions (sins of omission or commission against our parents, siblings or friends, or our less privileged fellow men).
The feeling of guilt is more common, therefore, during this holiday and contributes to the blues. The other common cause of Christmas blues is lack of money during this season; self-pity, panic, hopelessness and helplessness prevail.
Beat depression, illness at Xmas