You and Your Ho Ho Health

As it’s the season of festivities, this edition’s health topic is a light-hearted take on what advice I would give to three popular Yuletide characters.

Father Christmas

The outlook for jolly old Saint Nick is bleak, as his poor diet, busy lifestyle and lack of exercise are wreaking havoc on his health. Santa can always pop into his local pharmacy to get his health checked out – as can you.

We believers may be feeding those binge eating habits by leaving him a calorie laden mince pie and glass of sherry. All this midnight munching, along with swallowing lots of air during the sleigh-ride, will leave Santa feeling bloated with heartburn and indigestion burning away in his bowlful of jelly belly. Stocking up on antacids which contain aluminium and magnesium will help neutralise stomach acid.

That red suit gets tighter every year and his cherry red nose and rosy pink cheeks could be warning signs of hypertension, or high blood pressure, putting him at risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia.

I would advise Santa to ensure he has enough medication to cover the Christmas period. You too should check your supply and arrange for any repeat prescriptions before your community pharmacist gets into the swing of Christmas. If you do run out, remember you can call NHS 111 who will refer you to the closest pharmacy with your medication in stock for an urgent supply without the need for a prescription.

Frosty the Snowman

Stood in the cold for long hours with only a scarf on, it’s no surprise that Frosty is susceptible to a range of winter illnesses.

His carrot nose is running, his stony eyes streaming, and his snowball head feels like it may explode into a flurry of flakes. But is it just a common cold or could it be a more serious case of flu?

With a cold, symptoms may be sneezing and coughing, loss of taste and pressure in the ears. It is best to rest, keep warm, drink lots of fluids and take over-the-counter decongestants.

The flu causes sudden fever, aching body, tiredness and difficulty sleeping, with tummy trouble or nausea. Seek advice from your GP if you are over 65, pregnant or have a chronic condition.

The cold winter air may also trigger Frosty’s asthma, causing him to feel wheezier and short of breath. Wearing a scarf over his nose and mouth can soften the cold air he breathes in and he would be wise to keep an inhaler handy.

His twig arms and joints may also feel stiffer in winter and he could develop itchy red chilblains in his fingers and toes, caused by narrowing of the blood vessels. Keeping extremities covered and warm can prevent this.


All pregnancies are a blessing. But for Mary, being heavily pregnant in the lead up to Christmas may not have felt like it at times.

What with hemorrhoids and heartburn, the last thing she probably wanted to do was trek 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she should have been putting her feet up in her third trimester. Swollen ankles are a common side effect of pregnancy, but be aware of sudden swelling of the face, hands or feet, along with high blood pressure, severe headaches and vomiting which can be signs of pre-eclampsia.   

With no room at the inn and being forced to sleep surrounded by animals, she should have ensured she’d had her vaccinations such as the flu jab and whooping cough between 16 and 32 weeks. If you’re travelling while pregnant this winter, make sure you keep your maternity records with you just in case you need medical advice while away from home.

Winter means shorter daylight hours so it’s important that pregnant women continue to take a vitamin D supplement. Mary should also have been mindful about the use of herbal remedies and aromatherapy – the wise men’s gifts of frankincense and myrrh would not have been advised. Breastfeeding women should also seek advice from a pharmacist or GP before taking decongestants, antihistamines and aspirin.

If you are growing your own miracle over Christmas, make sure you follow the recommended foods to avoid such as mould-ripened cheeses, pate and cured or undercooked meats.