Staying Safe During Holiday Travel

holiday travel 1If you’re one of the millions of people planning to travel over the holidays, we’d like you to do it safely. Whether your plans involve car, plane or train take a minute or two to study these simple steps to stay healthy while traveling.

One health risk to consider when traveling is simply sitting for too long,” says Clayton Cowl, M.D., an expert in travel medicine at Mayo Clinic. “Concerns like blood clots in the legs from sitting too long, becoming dehydrated from lack of fluid intake or drinking too much alcohol, and not walking much when delayed in an airport or train station can be serious. Driving for hours to reach a destination after a long day at work can be as equally worrisome due to fatigue and eyestrain.”

Blood clots can be a concern when a person sits for too long because leg muscles aren’t contracting and blood can pool and stagnate in the vessels. This can lead to deep vein thrombosis and even pulmonary embolism – a potentially fatal condition, caused by clots becoming lodged in the lungs.  When travelling by car, both driver and passengers should stop every few hours to hydrate and walk. Plan ahead, and pick some good rest stops along your route. How about a park, a mall, or a place of interest?

As an added benefit, allowing children to run or play in a safe environment while traveling will often help curb their excessive energy in a confined space and may help them relax while traveling for longer periods.

full planeWhen traveling by plane, check the in-flight magazine for tips on how to exercise in your seat and on trips longer than three hours, get up at least once to take a walk to the bathroom or other end of the plane.

And regardless of how you travel, try to avoid crossing your legs while sitting for long periods, because this can inhibit adequate blood circulation.

If you’re the one doing the driving, plan to get a good night’s sleep the day before the trip, to avoid drowsiness during the journey. If possible, take turns at the wheel with other passengers. Take breaks at rest stops and chose healthy low carb meal options, to avoid crashing after a sugar high. Combining meals or rest room stops with a short walk to get fresh air and stretch can make a big difference in staying more alert and refreshed.

planesWhile we all want to just get to our destination for the holidays, budgeting a little extra time to account for unexpected weather delays and adequate driving breaks is a really smart plan.

To avoid stiffness from sitting too long, if you’re a passenger try doing some simple stretches, such as extending legs out and back several times and massaging thighs and calves.

To avoid eyestrain and its associated annoying symptoms including sore or irritated eyes, dry or watery eyes, double vision or blurriness, increased sensitivity to light or unremitting shoulder and neck fatigue never drive if you are sleep deprived.

A short nap can significantly relieve these symptoms and non-medicated eye drops can help if eye irritation persists

Whatever your travel method, avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of water and minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption as alcohol dehydrates at a cellular level.

holiday trafficAbove all, plan for the worst, and enjoy the best: When severe winter weather hits, many vehicles may become stranded and help may be hours or sometimes days away. Pack a simple emergency kit, including blankets, snacks, water, charging devices, flashlights and activities to keep kids amused.

Thank You for your attention. Now, please fasten your seat belts, place doors to manual and turn off all cellular devices. You’re ready for the holidays!

Bon Voyage.

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Keeping Extra Pounds off your Holiday List

expanding SantaAlthough by now you’ve hopefully now finished the last of the Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, the holiday eating season has just begun. And, as a result, over the next month, the average American will gain one or two pounds. While that might not sound like much, the annual weight gain adds up from year to year and can lead to significant gains as the years goes by.

So, if the seams on your favorite holiday outfit are already bursting ahead of the onslaught of holiday parties, all-you-can-eat buffets, peppermint bark and eggnog, now’s the time to consider strategies to maintain your current weight and still enjoy the season.

At this time of year, most of us are bombarded with food. High calorie treats appear everywhere you look. Tables are filled with home-made cookies, gingerbread, hot apple cider, and irresistible savory appetizers. But resist you must, says Amy Moore, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University.  Here’s her advice to keep you lean this holiday season:

holiday weight cartoonBe picky about your splurges. You can eat crackers and cheese any time, but the holidays are a time to sample special seasonal treats that people have spent a lot of energy preparing. So, if you’re at a holiday buffet, browse before you graze to size up your best options. If that delectable chocolate dessert beckons, enjoy a slice but pass on the brownies or soda. Allow yourself to indulge, just choose where you want to spend your calories.

Be mindful. When there’s a bowl of chips right in front of you, you are more likely to keep munching without really thinking about it. So pay attention to what you’re eating. Slow down and savor every bite, taking the time to appreciate what you’re putting into your mouth. Watch your portion size.

Plan ahead. If you know you are going to a party in the evening, eat a healthy breakfast and lunch. Don’t starve yourself; in fact, consider eating a snack to take the edge off of your hunger. Bring something healthy to potlucks so at least you can count on one healthy option being offered. Seasonal fruit such as pomegranates, clementines and cranberries are terrific holiday dishes because they are pretty, festive and, best of all, guilt free.

Conversation is calorie-free. Once you’ve taken a plate of food at a holiday gathering, step away from the table. Find a comfy space where you can talk to others. Fill up on fellowship, which is calorie-free!

Water is calorie-free, too. So, drink up. Alternate a glass of water with every alcoholic beverage to pace yourself as you celebrate and prevent a next day hang-over. Consider creating a wine spritzer by adding flavored sparkling water to your wine. Instead of drinking lemonade or soda with a meal, choose water. Not only does water fill you up, it’s also good for your digestive system, skin, muscles and kidneys.

Christmas fitness woman wearing santa hatIn addition to watching what you eat and drink, you should offset holiday calories by becoming more active. Saint Louis University associate professor of physical therapy and athletic training, Ethel Frese, DPT, offers the following tips:

Be realistic.  Becoming more active is a great way to mitigate a few extra calories, but it is not license to add massively to your diet. So, suppose you splurged and ate a 350 calorie pastry, on top of your normal daily calories. If you want to burn off all of the excess, you’ll need nearly an hour of intense exercise. While it’s not necessary to count every calorie, it is good to have a rough idea of how your calorie intake corresponds to your exercise, and know that it can take more exercise than you might think to balance out your food intake.

Everything counts. That said, don’t be discouraged. Exercise offers many overall health benefits, and burning off even an extra hundred calories a day makes a significant difference. In some cases, extra activity may be a natural part of your routine this season. Walking from the back of a packed parking lot at the mall and scouring stores for the perfect gift provides good exercise. House cleaning for company can burn calories, as can shoveling snow, playing with children and putting up decorations.

Fight the urge to hibernate. If rainy or snowy days tempt you to stay at home watching movies and reading books, be sure you don’t make a habit of avoiding outings. Bundle up and get out for fresh air and exercise. Run errands, stop by to see friends and neighbors, drop off canned goods at a food pantry, check out an exhibit at a museum or build a snowman!

Be consistent. The secret to success is to add a little bit of exercise each day. The effort really does add up, and you’ll find that daily activity makes you feel healthier, more alert, and happier in general. You’ll enjoy the season more without the sluggish feeling brought on by too many sedentary hours. Even if you don’t burn off all of the extra calories through exercise, you’ll limit the damage and in January, you’ll appreciate having only one pound to lose, instead of five.

Remember that the secret to controlling your weight is balancing the calories you take in (food) with the calories you burn. “Even the healthiest eaters need to exercise and the best exercisers need nutrition,” says Moore. “Nutrition and exercise provides the one-two punch of holiday weight management.”

Holiday DietMake your weight management mantra for the season to maintain not gain.

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Holiday Hellth!

Deck the fallsFor many of us the holidays mean family, feasting and fun.  But for our nation’s 18 million health care workers  – 28% of spread the cheerwhom will be working on Thanksgiving, all celebrations will be placed on hold while they help those who are sick or injured.

And, as Christmas approaches, things don’t get any better.  The number of 911 calls and hospital visits spike as the temperatures plummet. For example, around 5,800 people are treated for holiday decorating injuries alone, each year. On top of this, the number one day for cardiac deaths is December 25th with December 26th and January 1st coming in a close second and third.

To raise awareness of the strain put on healthcare workers during the holiday season and some ways they can address it, Carrington College, has released these infographics:Healthcare workers

Whatever you end up doing tomorrow, let’s not forget to say a word of thanks to our healthcare professionals. And if you do end up in their care be thankful they’re there.

Pass the gravy

making spirits brighter

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Wrap Rage and other Holiday Hazards

DecktheHalls_LogoDeck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la. 

 Yes, it’s that time of year again. Tis’ the season to trim the Christmas tree and decorate the house. Tis’ also the season for accidents!

Holiday-related injuries rose last year and expectations are that too much festive fa la la will have people packing emergency departments again this season.

ladderdecorationsThe leading cause of holiday injuries – falling from ladders while stringing lights. Injuries can range from a loss of pride to loss of life. Almost 20 years ago a highly respected colleague and friend of mine, gastroenterologist Dr Bernard Smits died as a result of a head injury sustained while doing exactly that.

But even assuming you skip the light hanging you’re not entirely safe from danger…

Here’s a list of the Top 3 holiday-related injuries:

Holiday Decorations – More than 13,000 people were treated as a result of cuts from ornaments during the 2010 holiday season alone.

Dangerous/Malfunctioning Toys  – According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) more than 250,000 people were treated in emergency rooms due to toy-related accidents in 2010. Of these around 181,500 were children younger than 15.

wrap rageWrap Rage – Adults and kids become so frustrated with that hard plastic around toys and electronics that they cut themselves when they try to tear it open. The cuts come from both the scissors or other sharp tools used when prying the package open and/or the really sharp edges on the packaging itself.  Census Bureau research claims that people suffer two times more injuries from trying to open packaging than injuries from skateboards or swimming pools combined!

So how can you avoid a trip to the ER this year?   Here’s some advice from Doctors Express and the CPSC:

  • Immediately discard plastic wrappings or other packaging on toys before they become dangerous play things
  • Unlike what Mom or Dad taught us, kids don’t always have to share – be sure to keep toys appropriate for older children away from younger siblings
  • Adults should open toys and install batteries BEFORE wrapping them and putting them under the tree
  • Charging batteries should be supervised by adults. Chargers and adapters can pose thermal burn hazards to young children

So now you know!

SRxA-logo for webDon we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yule tide carol,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

Help for the Holiday Blues

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all

For many this truly is the happiest and most wonderful time of the year. But for those who have lost a loved one, the empty chair at the table or fewer presents under the tree can be a painful reminder of our loved ones who are no longer with us.

There are so many traditions associated with the holiday season that it can be an emotional roller coaster for someone who has recently lost a loved one,” says Nancy Kiel, bereavement coordinator for Loyola University Health System. “Many people wish they could just fast forward through the holidays, but getting through the season is possible if you give yourself permission to be flexible.”

So for all those who are grieving and mourning the loss of someone this Holiday season here’s some tips that might help make the holidays a little brighter.

  1. Discuss holiday plans as a family. Everyone is feeling the loss, so talk about what you are going to do and be willing to compromise. If you don’t like the change you made, next year you can always go back to the way you did it before.
  2. Skip the mall. Christmas shopping can be stressful even when not dealing with grief. Consider giving gift cards or shop online to avoid the mall madness. Remember it’s not just about the presents, but about the presence of caring and supportive people.
  3. You can say no. The party invitations and social gatherings might be more difficult this year. You can say no or give yourself some breathing room by asking to RSVP at a later date. If you do go, drive yourself. This will allow you the freedom to leave at your discretion. Also, try to avoid “should people” who say “you should do this or you should do that.”
  4. Honor your loved one. Start a new tradition to honor and remember your loved one. You could light a special candle, at dinner have everyone at the table share a favorite memory or all take part in a loved one’s favorite holiday activity. Do something that would make your loved one smile.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. Do what you need to do and pamper yourself. If you need to take a nap, take a nap. Exercise is a great stress reliever, so bundle up and take a walk.
  6. It’s OK to change traditions. Do something different this year. Take a vacation somewhere hot. Skip the cooking and go to a restaurant, volunteer with those even less fortunate.

“Grief is hard work and it can be exhausting, but it is something we must do,”  advises Kiel. “If you put it on a back burner you’ll never heal. You can’t go around, over or under grief – you have to go through it. So find someone who will listen unconditionally and tell your story.”

For more information, visit www.loyolamedicine.org or call Nancy Kiel at (708) 216-1646.

Beating the Thanksgiving Guilt

With the holidays right around the corner, we suspect that many of our readers will already be worrying about the consequences of overindulgence and the missed days at the gym.

Fear not!  According to experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, you can get daily exercise throughout the holiday season, by adding heart-pumping twists to tasks already on your holiday to-do list.

Many holiday activities offer ways to get the 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity that your body needs to help fight off many forms of cancer and other diseases,” says Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson.

How, you may ask, is that possible?  Food, family and hours of watching football are hardly traditional calorie burners.

Well,  true to our mission statement, Transforming Challenges into Opportunities, SRxA’s Word on Health brings you our top exercise tips for the holidays:

Shopping?

Instead of driving around in search of a parking space near the door of the grocery store or mall, park as far from the entrance as you can.    Or, if you’re taking the bus, get off a stop or two early. Once  inside, opt for the stairs instead of the elevator and, if possible, carry your purchases instead of using a shopping cart.

Hosting guests?
Readying the house for guests and cleaning up after they leave is a great way to sneak in aerobic activity. With the right mindset, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, gardening and the multiple trips upstairs to put away laundry or holiday decorations become exercise opportunities, rather than chores.

Traveling?

If you’re flying or taking the train or bus take a brisk walk around the terminal while waiting to depart, and when you arrive at your destination, make your walk to baggage claim or the exit a quick one.

Whichever you chose, by making physical activity part of your holiday plans, you’ll ensure you have the momentum to keep exercising in the New Year.

Happy, Healthy Holidays to you all.

Watch Out this Memorial Day!

As we observe this Memorial Day and commemorate the men and women who died while serving in the American military let’s also remind ourselves to take care of the living. Holidays aren’t always fun and games. They also present ideal opportunities for our loved ones to get hurt. From burning themselves on the barbecue on Memorial Day to sticking themselves with carving knives on Halloween or ingesting sharp decorations on Christmas, holidays it seems are hazardous for health.

However, parents should be wary of both routine and out-of-the-ordinary activities on a holiday weekend.  According to a new study published in Pediatrics, children are more likely to suffer injuries from everyday activities, such as playing football, than they are to be victims of holiday-specific pitfalls.

Labor Day and Memorial Day are the top two holidays for injuries.  The study authors from the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, and Ohio State University suggest this is because they are often celebrated outdoors and people are more likely to take part in physical activities.

The researchers collected childhood-related injury information from a nationally representative sample of 98 U.S. hospital emergency departments. They looked at records from 1997 through 2006 over eight holidays: New Year’s, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They included injuries occurring in a five-day period around each holiday (two days before and two days after, as well as the holiday itself). The thinking was that people don’t always celebrate a holiday on the day itself, or they might hold festivities over multiple days.

An estimated 5,710,999 injuries related to holidays occurred over the nine-year period. After Labor Day and Memorial Day, the runners up for the most injuries were the Fourth of July and Halloween. Christmas had the least number of injuries.

Boys suffered from most of the injuries (62%), followed by children under 5 (29%). The most common injuries were lacerations (29.2%), and the most injured body parts were the face, fingers and hands.

Close to half of the injuries were sports or recreation related. Only a small portion of injuries were from activities that might be considered specific for the holiday. For instance, just 2.9% of injuries occurring around the Fourth of July were related to fireworks while 8.6% were related to riding bicycles!

SRxA’s Word on Health wishes all its readers a SAFE and HAPPY holiday.