2.JAN.2017 8 MIN READ | 8 MIN READ

The holiday season means that many are flocking overseas for their well-deserved break, busy with fun activities or hosting get-togethers. Nothing should dampen the holidays, right?

Holidays are great, but only if no one falls sick or has to struggle to enjoy a party! In case you are starting to fret, here are some information and useful tips from specialists on common illnesses contracted during the holiday season.

Stomach flu (Gastroenteritis)

For the foodies out there, it is no secret that you live to eat, and the holidays are perfect for eating out and pigging out. For the roadtrippers, what can be a greater achievement than having tried (and of course, instagrammed) as many local street eats as possible? Before you foodies go full blast on eating, do be aware of stomach flu, a common contagious condition relating to food consumption.

What it is: Inflammation of the stomach and intestines, usually due to bacterial or viral infection

Common causes: Contaminated food or water, contact with an infected individual, unwashed hands after diaper-changing or bathroom visit

Symptoms: Vomiting, watery diarrhoea, stomach pain, cramping, fever, nausea and headache

What to do: Dr Kelvin Thia, gastroenterologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital advises that a patient should hydrate with water and isotonic drinks, avoid oily or spicy food and milk until symptoms stop surfacing.

"Seek medical help immediately if there is high fever, severe abdominal pain or severe vomiting", says Dr Thia. "Also, those with existing medical conditions tolerate dehydration and infections less well. They should contact their regular doctor."

How to avoid: Wash hands, use sanitiser, avoid uncooked meat or fish, avoid raw food, drink only well-sealed bottled water

Common flu and influenza

The holiday season is always a great chance to connect with friends and families. However, being in close proximity with others, and sharing food and drinks, puts you at risk of catching the cold from someone who already has it. If you think that the common cold is so common that it is harmless, you are mistaken! Common cold if left untreated may develop to become bronchitis or pneumonia, which has can prolong your down period.

What it is: Common cold and influenza are an upper respiratory (nose, mouth, throat, lungs) system infection caused by viruses. It is difficult to distinguish between the 2, but common cold tends to cause more cough, sore throat, runny nose and milder fever. On the other hand, influenza causes less coughs, sore throat and runny nose, but more fever, headaches and muscle aches.

Common causes: Direct contact with infected individual or inhaling fluid droplets that contain the flu virus

Symptoms: Runny nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat, headache, nasal congestion, fever, muscle aches

What to do: Dr Leong Hoe Nam, infectious disease specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, advises, "Adequate fluids and rest are important for fast recovery. Over-the-counter cough and runny nose remedies can help relieve symptoms.

"Influenza is more dangerous and can lead to pneumonia and hospitalisation. Hence, seek medical help if there is persistent fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea or aches."

How to avoid: Always allocate a serving spoon for shared dishes, wear masks and wash hands frequently

Bone fracture

For the sporty ones, some may have taken this opportunity to go skiing in the colder parts of the world or go for a trek to reconnect with nature. Unfortunately, this increases the occurrence of accidents and falls during the season. What a bummer to be stuck with a bone fracture during the holidays!

What it is: Broken bone. The bone may snap into 2 or more pieces. In an open fracture, the bone protrudes through the skin and may recede back into the wound and become non-visible. In a closed fracture, there is no open wound in the skin.

Common causes: Fall or blow

Symptoms: Deformity, inability to move, pain on the injured area, bone protrusion, bruising or swelling

What to do: Dr Andrew Dutton, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital tells us how to treat a fracture and tips on self-care.

"For upper limp injuries, prevent further deformity and pain by immobilising the limb. For example, splint the limp using an arm sling or wrap the arm against the torso. For forearm, wrist or hand injuries, splint the injured limb using a flat wooden board.

"For lower limbs injuries, avoid walking and instead, limp or use crutches. If possible, elevate the limb and splint the limb to a wooden board. Icing can reduce swelling and pain."

How to avoid: Exercise caution – do not go faster than you can, wear proper gear, observe safety precautions religiously

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD)

For the parents, what can be more worrying than your child falling ill? Hand-foot-mouth disease has long been rampant among children and can also infect adults. The HFMD is a classic example of how holiday playdates and parties for the kids can go wrong.

What it is: Caused by the enterovirus and usually lasts less than a week. If serious, infections in brain, lung or heart may occur.

Common causes: Direct contact with the saliva, nasal discharge, faeces, rash fluid of an infected person

Symptoms: Sore throat, Fever, Skin rashes on mouth, hands, feet or buttocks, Ulcers in the throat, tongue and mouth, lethargy, poor appetite

What to do: Dr Leong Hoe Nam, infectious disease specialist, offers tips on self-care.

"Although ulcers in the mouth hurt, drinking adequate water remains essential. Taking sweetened ice drinks or popsicles can alleviate pain and aid in hydration.

"Pain killers like paracetamol, ibuprofen, etoricoxib or celecoxib are also safe for use. To speed up recovery, rest adequately and be well-hydrated."

How to avoid: Wash hands with soap and water before and after eating and after toilet breaks. Avoid sharing food, drinks, utensils, towers and toothbrushes with others. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Disinfect toys and frequently touched surfaces, if facilities allow, try and isolated infected individual from the rest of the family

There is no more lethal way to ruin holiday plans than to catch a contagious disease or be down with a fracture. This holiday season, let’s all play hard, rest well and definitely stay healthy!

1.JAN.2017