We all want a happy and peaceful Christmas but beware those festive perils lurking around the corner – from choking on the turkey to tripping over the prezzies.
St John Ambulance today issues guidelines to help keep you safe and, where possible, to treat minor injuries at home to ease the burden on besieged A&E departments.
Last year many hospitals were at more than 99 per cent capacity in the week leading up to Christmas.
Dr Lynn Thomas, clinical director for St John Ambulance, said: “A&E provides an amazing service, but if we clog it up with things that can be treated either by yourself, or with advice from 111 or from your local pharmacist, then it makes it very difficult for doctors and nurses to see everyone. The wait gets longer and the care is not what they want to give.
“Go to your pharmacist for five minutes rather than sitting in A&E for four hours just to be told you need paracetamol. It’s less frustrating and it means you can stay with your family.”
Of course, in the case of a genuine emergency you should always call 999 for help.
Meanwhile, here’s St John’s advice on tackling some of the typical conditions at this time of year.
Flu danger signs
Rest, take lots of hot fluids and dose up on paracetamol when you see the first signs of flu.
Paracetamol eases aches and pains and can help bring your temperature down.
If you are taking cold and flu tablets containing paracetamol take care that the combined intake does not exceed the recommended daily amount.
Symptoms can be more acute in the elderly so check with the pharmacist or dial 111 if you have any particular concerns.
Treating a burn or scald
In the rush to get festive fare out of the oven people can touch the side, forget to use the oven gloves – or be splashed by hot oil and fat.
To treat a burn, hold it under cool water for at least 10 minutes.
Remove clothing or jewellery around the burn, unless it is stuck to the wound, and cover lengthways with cling film. Keep an eye on the patient as you call 111 and follow their advice.
Treating sprains and strains
If someone in your family has twisted their ankle they don’t need to go to A&E if they can put weight on it.
You should just keep an eye on it and get help at a later date if it’s not settling down. Initially, you just need to remember the RICE mantra.
R – Rest injured part.
I – Apply frozen peas or an ice pack wrapped in a tea towel.
C – Provide comfortable support and check their circulation every 10 minutes.
E – Elevate the injured part and advise the patient to rest.
Choking: Saving an adult
Anything stuck in the throat can block the airways and prevent a patient breathing.
There are different ways to treat choking in adults and children.
For an adult, encourage the casualty to keep coughing and if it does not come up give them five sharp blows on their back between their shoulder blades.
If that does not work, squeeze it out by giving the patient five abdominal thrusts.
Between each slap or squeeze, open their mouth to check nothing has come up and to give it space to come out.
If these steps do not dislodge the object call 999.
Choking: Saving a baby
Lay the baby face down along your thigh and support their head while you give them five back blows between their shoulder blades, turning them over and checking their mouth each time.
If that fails, use two fingers and give five sharp chest thrusts.
If the item has still failed to dislodge, call 999.
The recovery position… keep the victim safe
Trips and tumbles are a common mishap during Christmas party season and if someone is knocked unconscious it is vital to keep them safe until help arrives.
St John Ambulance expert Dr Lynn Thomas says: “There is a propensity to have a little more alcohol at this time of year.
“If you find anyone unconscious and still breathing you want to put them in the recovery position to protect their airway.
“This is definitely a moment you need to get medical help – but you can keep them safe until it arrives.”
If they stir, reassure them, keep them warm and check for any other injuries. Do not make them be sick as this may cause a blockage.
St John Ambulance has a six-point guide to putting someone in the recovery position:
- See sja.org.uk and search for recovery position video
Cuts and grazes
A slip of the knife while preparing your Christmas dinner could leave you with a cut finger – or falling after a few drinks could result in a grazed knee.
But these ailments can be treated at home.
Lynn says: “With more cooking at Christmas comes more knife injuries. There’s also a lot around the house that people can fall over, like presents and children’s toys.
“It’s about making sure to clean the wound, keep it clean afterwards and put on a sterile dressing.”
After cleaning – with either cold running water or alcohol-free wipes – pat the wound dry.
St John Ambulance then advises raising and supporting the injury before applying a sterile adhesive dressing.
- More first aid information is available at the St John Ambulance website – sja.org
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