Dr Pixie's A-Z of festive health

Woman ill sneezing in bed

Don’t let winter ailments ruin your festivities – be prepared!

Acne rosacea

Beware stress and alcohol, which can make it flare up. Act early with antibiotics to stay blemish-free.


Run burns under cool water for at least 10 mins, then loosely cover with clingfilm or a plastic bag. A burn bigger than your hand, an electrical or chemical burn or one that blisters, needs medical attention.


Ensure you stay hydrated and eat plenty of fibre. If you suffer from seasonal constipation, have laxatives handy. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on these.

Deep vein thrombosis

Immobility can cause a blood clot. Pregnant women, pill-takers, cancer sufferers, obese people or those who’ve recently been in hospital are at an increased risk. Leg clots can be fatal. Swelling of a limb or shortness of breath needs to be brought to a doctor’s attention.


The Boxing Day walk is vital to burn off the approximate 3,500 cals a Christmas lunch can contain!


Brussels sprouts make you a windy woman. To ease the breeze, bypass fizzy drinks and be sure to chew your food slowly.


A strong anti-inflammatory pill on prescription helps in an acute attack. Limit alcoholic and sugary drinks and stay hydrated. Shellfish and meat can also trigger an attack.


Tension headaches are common. They don’t wake you from sleep or worsen with exercise and have no associated features like nausea or flashing lights. Painkillers and a cool flannel on the face can help.


Over-eating increases acid, causing indigestion. Symptoms include an acidic taste, bad breath and pain behind the breastbone. Eat little and often, avoiding too much booze and spicy foods.

Jet lag

Spending Christmas in another time zone? Try to change your sleep routine pre-travel. Once you arrive, get on to local time as soon as you can and go out in natural light to re-sync your body clock. Ask your GP about melatonin (tablets that promote healthy sleep) or sleeping tablets, but managing it practically works best.

Killer heels

I’ve lost count of the number of patients who’ve come to my clinic with an ankle injury. If you’re new to high heels, go for a wedge and wear around the house to get used to them. Shoes with straps are generally kinder than pinching stilettos. Buy insoles or gel cushions for dancing, take shoes off at every opportunity and ice your pinkies with frozen peas before bed.

Local pharmacy

Get your regular prescriptions renewed in advance. Most surgeries want three days’ notice. A number of local pharmacies will remain open on Christmas Day – check your local paper for details.


No one wants a period at Christmas. Norethisterone, a progestogen hormone in tablet form, will postpone it. Otherwise, if you take the combined oral contraceptive pill, you can continue taking it when your pack ends.


Switch to a diet of eating dry bread and pasta. Keep hydrated, ideally with a solution or (flat) full-fat lemonade. You can buy anti-sickness pills if you can’t keep anything down, but if you find you’re very weak and not passing a lot of urine, it’s time to get medical advice.


Fluid retention is common when sitting around or wearing tight shoes. Kick shoes off indoors, keep feet elevated and don’t stand for long periods. Limit salt intake and stay hydrated. The elderly, obese and pregnant are most at risk.


If you strain when passing a stool, have pain, see blood in the bowl or feel a bunch of grapes in your rear end, it's usually safe to self-treat with a cream such as Anusol.

Quick fix

Aspirin treats everything from fevers to hangovers, but avoid if you have an ulcer, are on Warfarin or pregnant. Don't give to under-16s - it can cause Reye's syndrome, which can lead to potentially fatal liver and brain damage.

Recurrent cold sores

Winter weather and stress encourage cold sores. Visit your GP to get a prescription which, if taken at the first tingle, can make an attack less severe. Alternatively, you can get a large tube of the cream Aciclovir on prescription.

Sexually transmitted infections

Festive parties often lead to unprotected sex, but there are walk-in clinics to help . In terms of pregnancy, the morning-after pill is available from most pharmacies without prescription.

Twisted ankle

Resting is crucial. Ice the joint with a bag of frozen peas in a tea towel for 15 mins and repeat every few hours. Compress the swelling with a Tubigrip support bandage. Elevation will also help the soft tissue swelling.

Urgent care

If you need advice, call NHS Direct (tel: 0845 4647) or visit a pharmacist. Minor ailments can be treated without a prescription.


Invest in hankies and hand sanitiser, as infectious droplets on hard surfaces can stay there for hours.

Water infections

Hydrate. Pharmacy treatments can help neutralise the urine, and reduce pain and the need to pee. If you’re passing blood, see a doctor.


Stress, alcohol and exhaustion often mean men can’t perform. Avoid buying Viagra online, as most of the drugs are counterfeit and can even be dangerous. See your GP instead, as impotence can sometimes be the first symptom of diabetes or heart disease.

Your limit

Alternate alcohol with water, beware drinking rounds and avoid anything you don’t usually have. The festive cocktail or Champagne reception with repeated top-ups can lead to a disaster.


If you stay up for over 16 hours, you are more likely to have accidents. Try to get regular sleeping hours and avoid cat-napping. Aim for caffeine-free and alcohol-free days.

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