Where to go if you’re suddenly unwell at Christmas


Here’s where to go and what to do if you fall ill during the holidays.
By Dr Sara Kayat
Fallen ill over the festive period? With a number of NHS surgeries closed or running a reduced service over the Christmas holidays it can be difficult to know what to do in a medical emergency – and tempting to head for A&E at the first sign of ill health.
This Morning’s resident GP on ITV Dr Sara Kayat offers her expert tips on what to do if you fall ill during the holidays:
How to stay healthy this Christmas
While accidents can happen and you never know when ill health may strike, there are a few things you can do in advance to improve your chances of staying healthy and well during the holidays.
• Plan ahead if you have a health condition
If you have an existing health condition, think ahead when it comes to your medication and ensure you have requested your prescription and picked up your regular medication from the pharmacist in advance. Have a look at your medicine cabinet ahead of time and check that you also have the basics like painkillers, cough medicine, a thermometer, plasters and oral rehydration salts.
• Be drink aware this Christmas
Christmas is a time for excess, but the number of A&E visits for alcohol poisoning has doubled in six years, so drink responsibly and consider choosing a tipple with less alcohol content, keep hydrated by sipping water between drinks, or consider cutting back altogether.
Booze often also plays a role in the burns and cutting injuries suffered trying to cook Christmas dinner, so if you’re the family chef then skip the drinks until after you’ve served the meal.
• Sidestep food poisoning
Turkey preparation is often responsible for dodgy tummies during the festive period and there are around 250,000 cases of food poisoning related to poultry every year. To avoid becoming one of these statistics ensure you defrost your frozen turkey properly – and prepare and cook it appropriately.
• Don’t skip your fruit and veg
Alongside all those Christmas puds and pigs in blankets, do ensure you’re helping your immune system fight off all the viruses incubating around us in the winter months by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly and taking supplements where appropriate. Of course, as careful as we try to be, there will always be some health problems we can’t prevent and in these cases, it is important you know what to do.
Where to get medical attention at Christmas
While it’s all very well planning in advance, sometimes accidents or unexpected health problems just happen. In an emergency or if you’re just not sure what to do, consider the following 4 options for seeking medical attention during the Christmas holidays:
1.Don’t forget the pharmacist
The pharmacist is an important health resource that often gets overlooked, and you don’t need to make an appointment to see one. While your GP practice might be closed, a lot of pharmacies will remain open during the holidays, and can offer private consultations.
Pharmacists are highly-trained health professionals who can advise on health and wellbeing, as well as supply medicines to manage minor ailments with over the counter medication, and some pharmacists are even able to prescribe medication. But, most importantly they will be able to tell you when your illness warrants a doctor’s visit and they will be able to signpost you to your nearest service.
2. Call 111
If you become seriously unwell overnight and the pharmacy is closed, consider calling NHS 111. This is a 24-hour, free telephone helpline service that can help you when you aren’t sure what health service you may need, and can advise you on the appropriate health management or put you through to the urgent out-of-hours GP service.
These out of hours GPs may be working in primary care clinics, A&E departments or urgent care centres, including minor injury units or walk-in centres, and some will be doing home visits for those who are housebound.
3. Book a private consultation
If you need urgent medical attention, head over to Google and search for an online doctor consultation. Netdoctor has no affiliation with any particular brand but you could try GP at Hand, a service that allows you to video call an NHS doctor 24 hours a day, so you should get seen within two hours. It’s quick and easy, but does require you to switch from your current GP to be able to use the service.
Alternatively, Babylon Health enables users to have 24/7 virtual consultations with doctors and health care professionals via text and video messaging. The service is not free but you’ll only ever pay for GP consultations, prescriptions and health kits. These GPs will still be able to prescribe and refer as normal, but they may recommend a face-to-face consultation if you need to be examined.
4. When to visit accident and emergency
A&E traditionally has a peak in demand when the festive season is in full swing, so it is so important that it is reserved for accidents and emergencies. If your illness is serious or life threatening, then A&E is right place. If you are away from your usual surroundings this Christmas, make yourself aware of the local A&Es and how to get to them, or call 999 if you need an ambulance.


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