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18 Holiday Health Hazards and How to Avoid Them

18 Holiday Health Hazards and How to Avoid Them

The holidays are perfect for getting together with loved ones and partying merrily, and you don’t want to spoil your fun with any mishaps. Here are 18 of the most common health hazards that occur over the holiday season, and how to avoid them.

1. Burns and Scalds

With all of the cooking and baking that happens around this time, it’s more than likely that someone will end up burning themselves on a hot baking pan, or get spattered by some stray grease.

Make sure that you have a supply of pot holders, oven mitts, and dishcloths handy, and touch handles very lightly before grabbing them. Use grease-spatter covers when frying things, and ensure that you keep the kitchen from getting too crowded: too many cooks = inevitable injuries. Don’t even think about deep-frying a turkey.

2. Cuts

As with the example mentioned above, cooking and baking can often result in cuts and scrapes. Chopping onions with a sharp knife, grating lemon rind for cookies…all can result in pain and bleeding. That’s not much fun at all, especially since you can risk contaminating dishes with your own blood.

Be present and aware as you work, as a lack of focus is a primary cause of kitchen injuries. Keep a first aid kit handy in case of any cuts, and if you do manage to slice yourself, wear latex gloves afterward to minimize infection and contamination.

3. Food Poisoning

If you’re working with any kind of animal protein (like turkey or ham), or various condiments that have been in the fridge for a while, you run the risk of spreading salmonella or any number of harmful moldy bits.

Double-check every canned or pre-packaged item before you use it, and be sure to wash every knife, cutting board, and work surface regularly to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Wash your hands before and after prepping anything, and before serving as well. Don’t leave any meat or dairy products on counters or tables for too long, and if your egg nog has been sitting untouched for an hour, you might wish to pour yourself a fresh glass.

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4. Ornament Dangers

If you have small children or pets, stay away from breakable glass ornaments, tinsel, and anything sharp. Little hands, muzzles, and beaks can get hurt very badly by the very things you’re using to beautify your home.

5. Illness

Hugging and kissing relatives, shaking hands while schmoozing at office parties, touching sticky door handles while holiday shopping…all of these are perfect opportunities for illnesses to find their way into your body.

Make sure that you wash your hands often, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket, and keep your fingers out of your mouth, eyes and nose. If one of your relatives is hacking and sneezing, keep distance from them and just bellow at them that you love them dearly, but are in the process of getting over something or another and can’t afford to be re-infected.

6. Falls

Sure, stringing a bunch of lights all over your house creates a beautiful effect, but you won’t be able to enjoy it if you’re stuck in the emergency room.

Be sure to have someone spot you when you’re up on a ladder, and only climb up during daylight hours. Use a ladder indoors as well, as even the sturdiest chair can be more precarious than you think.

7. Slipping on Ice

Ice is sneaky, and likes to hide on stairs, sidewalks, and driveways, just waiting for an unsuspecting person to step on it.

Be sure to use a sand/salt mixture on any treacherous bits of pavement, and when you walk across this areas, shuffle your feet to slide them across while keeping your center of gravity low: you’ll have less chance of falling, and can regain your balance if you slip around a little. Wear flat boots or shoes with good treads, and for goodness’ sake, don’t be an idiot and prance around outside in stiletto heels: save those for indoor parties.

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8. Chills and Frostbite

Going tobogganing with your nieces and nephews sounds like a great idea, but there may be some chilly consequences. Although you might feel warm while you’re being active, you may end up a bit cooler than you’re trying to be. Sub-zero temperatures can wreak havoc on your skin, and fat-free extremities like toes and fingers are particularly susceptible to frostbite and cold damage.

Wear layers that you can add and subtract as needed, be sure to wear gloves and mittens, invest in a good pair of long johns, and make friends with woolen socks.

9. Sunburns

It sounds odd to think of sunburns occurring in wintertime, but they’re actually quite common. People who spend part of their holidays skiing, snowboarding, or just playing outdoors can end up with some pretty nasty pinking around the face and ears.

Get yourself a good, high-quality sunscreen and apply it liberally before going outside. Actually, if you’d like to decrease sun damage to your skin in general, you might like to apply a thin layer of sunscreen any time you plan to be outside for a while.

10. Car Accidents

Slippery roads, poor visibility (yay snow!), and countless other hazards are common at this time of year. Please drive safely and responsibly, and never, ever drive after you’ve been drinking.

Keep an emergency kit in your car, along with a bag of sand, some blankets, and snacks, and never assume that the drivers around you are as responsible as you are.

11. Toy Hazards

Do you have any idea how many people manage to slice themselves open on hard plastic toy or gadget covers every year? Those things can be treacherous, as can many other toys out there.

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Be aware of where your gifts originate from, as it’s best to avoid those made with toxic chemicals and tiddly bits that can choke your young relatives, and open packages with care.

12. Stress

Cooking a holiday dinner for a dozen people while trying to ensure that the house stays tidy, your outfit stays immaculate, and your dog doesn’t eat the decorations can be absolutely maddening. In fact, heart attacks increase by a full third when the holidays roll around, and the number of people who have strokes, panic attacks, and nervous breakdowns also increases exponentially.

Delegate as much as you can to other people, and remember that the folks who’ll be celebrating at your place are friends and family members who love you: it’s absolutely okay if the cranberry sauce is a bit lumpy.

13. Alcohol Poisoning

It’s fun to have a couple of drinks while you’re partying, but chugging a bottle of whiskey on your own isn’t terribly good for you.

Alcohol poisoning is easily avoided by drinking responsibly, having a glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed, and snacking on oily/fatty foods like deviled eggs, olives, nuts, and cheese.

14. Allergies

That Norwegian spruce might look lovely, but if you have any tree allergies, you might end up having an asthma attack or breaking into hives. People with pet allergies may find themselves having a sneeze-fest if they visit a home where cats reign, and food allergies may rear their heads after bites into unfamiliar pastries.

Be sure to keep a supply of antihistamines in the house, and a tube of hydrocortisone cream at the ready in case of a rash or hive breakout. If you have an anaphylactic reaction to anything (peanuts, mushrooms, etc.), keep an EpiPen handy and let your hosts know about your allergy ahead of time.

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15. Loneliness and Depression

Many people are alone at this time of the year, and Christmas is just behind Valentine’s Day when it comes to suicide rates.

If you’re alone over the holidays and feeling down, consider volunteering at a soup kitchen or visiting with elderly folks or those in hospitals. Accept invitations to meals and celebrations when asked by friends or co-workers, and if things get really bad, remember that there is always help available to you.

16. Electrocution

Children and pets are most at risk for electrocution, as sparkly holiday lights can look so tempting to gnaw upon, but you’d be surprised at how many adults get hurt this way as well.

Keep outdoor lights unplugged until you’ve arranged them the way you like, and don’t let Grandpa use a knife to fish burnt crumpets out of the toaster.

17. Fire

Many people light their fireplaces and wood stove around this time of year, and candles are common decorations in many households.

Keep the doors of wood stoves closed while logs are burning, and make sure that kids aren’t tempted to throw miscellaneous bits into them just to see whether they’ll burn or not. Never leave a candle burning unattended, keep matches and lighters away from little hands (and pyromaniacs), and use a fireplace screen to keep sparks away from the carpet.

18. Pet Poisoning

The last thing you want to do is accidentally poison your pet, so be sure to do your research on which plants and foods are toxic to your furred or feathered friend.

Keep yew, lilies, and poinsettias out of the house if you have any pets, and don’t share your holiday dinner with your dog, cat, or bird until you’re certain that what you’re eating won’t have any adverse effects. Some tidbits that you may find delicious (like chocolate or avocado) can have really nasty effects on their health.

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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