Dr. Alan McLean, a long standing family physician based in Sault Ste. Marie, is the Primary Care Lead for the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). He works with the LHIN to help strengthen and align primary care planning and help build a more accessible system of care for Northerners. Please consider his column for your publication.
By Dr. Alan McLean
Primary Care Lead, North East LHIN
Christmas is a wonderful time. Families get together to renew relationships and celebrate the season. I look forward to my own children coming home with great anticipation to enjoy the season with traditions old and new.
It can however also be a great time for stress and illness. Often germs as well as gifts are shared at the many gatherings that occur. Often we overstretch ourselves to strive for perfection. It is certainly a time of year where lost loved ones are missed the most.
It is important to pay attention to both our physical and mental health to get through the season. Here are a few helpful solutions to look at before the season starts.
- Get a flu vaccination. It can make an incredible difference in how you spend your holidays. It's available now from most family physician’s offices, community health centres, walk-in clinics or pharmacies, and it's a good strategy against a potentially dangerous virus.
- Remember to wash your hands - often. It’s your best line of defense against colds, flus … and all manner of infections out there. Use hot water and soap and rub those paws together for at least 20 seconds. Fist bumping has also become an acceptable way to avoid germs delivered through a handshake, but still greet friends with contact.
- Stock up now on all medications. If you have a primary care provider, chances are her or his office won’t be open over the holidays. Make sure you have enough medications to last you from Christmas to New Year’s so that you don’t have to spend time in a walk-in clinic or an emerg just to get your prescriptions filled. Your pharmacist can also ask your provider to renew medications over the phone.
- Put exercise on your to do list. You will feel better for it. Getting some exercise outside, during the daylight, can also boost your levels of serotonin making the holiday stresses less stressful.
- Manage your stress. Pare down your list of “to dos” to the essentials. Don’t feel like everything has to be perfect in order for people to enjoy the holidays. Try to get enough sleep – a good seven hours–and stay well hydrated by drinking lots of water.
- Before going to a party, make a plan. Don’t go on an empty stomach – it will make you more likely to overindulge. If you are drinking alcohol, always drink a glass of water between drinks. New guidelines from the Centre of Research and Addictions recommends healthy adults space drinks an hour apart, and drink no more than two per occasion for women and three for men. If you are over the age of 65, you tend to have less ability to process the alcohol. This means alcohol will hit you much harder –by as much as 30 to 40%, compared to younger folk.
- If you are feeling unwell and your situation is non-urgent, there are several options for care beyond your local emergency department. Check the location of the nearest walk-in clinic or get free access to a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the Telehealth Ontario service<http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/telehealth/> at 1-866-797-0000 or (TTY): 1-866-797-0007.
And lastly, remember that as humans we need to socialize to stay healthy and happy. So take the time to chat with neighbours and call family, far away.