Broken baubles and falling Santas: the festive ailments you will see in your practice this Christmas time

Whether falling over whilst hanging decorations, electrocuting ourselves on fairy lights or accidentally swallowing a bauble (it’s happened), Practice Business explores the Christmas ailments you are most likely to see in your practice during this festive period

The Christmas period is full of cheer – and fraught with health hazards. The National Accident Helpline has blamed ‘festive fear’ – the mad rush we whip ourselves into when completing Christmas shopping and decoration hanging, and general preparation making – for the accidents we have around this time of year. Couple the Christmas frenzy with wintry weather, and increasingly hazardous conditions, and you have the perfect storm for illness and injury. Christmas cold and a Rudolf nose for boxing day, anyone?

It is, therefore, an extremely busy period for primary care. In this article, Practice Business will walk you through the ailments you are most likely to see in your practice come ‘Noel’ and the (sometimes amusing, sometimes truly excruciating) festive anecdotes which accompany them:

  1. Falling off a stool or ladder whilst hanging decorations. It is possible to sustain a variety of injuries from this type of accident. Adam Taylor, a senior anatomy lecturer at Lancaster university, points out these horrific incidences in a Daily Mail article:
  • a 28-year-old woman was putting up an ornament when the stool slipped from beneath her, causing vaginal trauma from the landing;
  • a 50-year-old woman was, similarly, hanging Christmas lights and then fell, impaling herself on the tree branches and sustaining a rectal tear. Merry Christmas.
  1. Christmas decoration-related injuries. Cuts and scrapes from standing on or mishandling sharp or broken Christmas decorations, including cuts from glass baubles, may be an increasing presence in your practice. Just hope they aren’t as bad as these:
  • a four-year-old girl put a metal bell in her ear so she could listen to ‘Jingle Bells’, which promptly got stuck;
  • a 36 year-old man accidentally swallowed a drawing pin whilst hanging up Christmas decorations and sneezing;
  • and a 64-year-old woman sprained her foot by dropping a four-foot wooden Santa on it.
  1. Food preparation injuries. In the haste to get Christmas dinner on the table in front of an endlessly increasing number of hungry and demanding relatives, a host of injuries can occur, ranging from minor burns and knife wounds to, well, extreme ligament strains. This article from The Guardian highlights the bizarre case of a 45-year-old woman who strained her shoulder attempting to pull a turkey out of the oven. Another incident saw someone burn themselves whilst roasting chestnuts on an open fire.
  2. Christmas lights-related injuries. According to The Guardian, there are several reports of people accidentally electrocuting themselves whilst hanging the Christmas lights, or burning themselves whilst lighting candles.
  3. Christmas tree related injuries. As well as the falling over-related ailments, be prepared to see cases of Christmas-tree-induced dermatitis. Having a Christmas tree allergy is lovingly named ‘Christmas tree syndrome’, causing over a third of Brits to suffer hay-fever like symptoms. Sniffling and spluttering patients in your practice over Christmas may not be suffering from the common cold after all, but rather an unfortunate case of festive allergies.
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What can you do to help ease this Christmas gift of extra general practice work?

Designing and displaying a poster about Christmas hazards in your practice may help implant important safety messaging, decreasing the amount of injuries you see in your surgery. You could post this information online as part of a practice blog, if you have one, or use a twitter thread to highlight the possible dangers of ‘festive fear’.

In addition, Christmas is not exempt from colds and other viral nasties. Warn patients of when your practice will be closed during the Christmas period and make sure you instruct them where they should turn to instead – local out of hours GP surgeries, A&E, and the NHS 111 helpline.

Those with ‘flu, chest infections and other mysterious pathogens who have slogged through their illnesses with mulled wine as primary medication will rejoice at the re-opening of their surgeries and flock to you in large numbers. Ensure you put a plan in place in advance so that you can cope with the Santa impersonator who strained a muscle lugging a fake sleigh around, or the copious folks who have developed Christmas tree syndrome. It all sounds funny, but it’s going to be busy.

Remember, Christmas is your time too. Amid the festive frenzy, candle-related injuries and turkey traumas, Christmas should be infused with fun for you and your practice staff. We hope our special Christmas items will help ease your practice business, one broken bauble at a time.

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