Over the holidays it can be very easy to drop our guard and do something…well a bit silly.
With the Christmas–New Year school holidays now a reality, South West health authorities have issued a call for common sense and care to prevail.
South West Hospital and Health Service Executive Director of Medical Services Dr Chris Buck says risk-taking behaviour seemed to increase over the Christmas-New Year school holiday period.
Dr Buck says a total of 700 children aged 16 years and under presented to the region’s main emergency departments during the previous Christmas–New Year school holiday period between 11 December 2016 and 22 January 2017.
These presentations included 276 at Roma Hospital, 202 at St George Hospital, 163 at Charleville Hospital and 59 at Cunnamulla Hospital.
Dr Buck says strains, sprains, cuts, bruises, gastroenteritis, viral and respiratory infections, along with the occasional open wound and fracture, generally topped the list of children’s presentations during the Christmas–New Year school holiday period in the South West.
“Last year, we also had a number of children and young people presenting with various middle ear infections at all four of our main hospitals.’’
“While many of these cases were the result of viral infections that were prevalent at the time, some of them, like otitis externa, are the common swimmer’s ear that children can pick up from local creeks, swimming pools and so on. Ear care after swimming is an important aspect of staying healthy during the school holidays.”
“When finished swimming, it’s really important to ensure ears are dried thoroughly to minimise the risks of infections.’’ Dr Buck said pool safety also was important.”
“I would urge everyone with a pool at home to make sure their pools are properly fenced and that they learn the principles of cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.’’
Dr Buck says most important of all, if there are young children involved, never leave them in or around the pool, or any body of water for that matter, unsupervised.
“Keep an eye on them at all times. It can happen so quickly. Kids are masters at slipping away when you aren’t looking and pools, creeks, ponds and the like are like magnets to them.”
“And remember, never leave children – or animals – unattended in cars in the heat. Temperatures can rise very rapidly and can be fatal in a surprisingly short period of time.’’
Dr Buck says parents of younger children also should be especially vigilant with button batteries.
“The ingestion of small, coin-sized button batteries is a recognised danger for young children and, if left undiagnosed, can cause severe internal injury or even death.’’
“Younger children are at risk of swallowing due to the appeal of placing shiny smooth objects into their mouth, while teenagers also can be at risk due to the appeal of receiving a tingle on the tongue when a lithium battery is placed on the tongue. “
Dr Buck also wants South West residents to plan ahead to ensure they had sufficient repeat medication prescriptions to last them through the Christmas–New Year period.
“With decreased opening hours in GP clinics during the festive season, it could be hard to get a repeat prescription if you leave it till the last minute. Pharmacies also may not be open when you want them.”
Dr Buck says the warm weather during Christmas and New Year also created problems with food handling.
“There’s always a lot of food around at Christmas. But people should remember that food spoils quickly and bacteria multiply very rapidly in the heat.’’
“So, don’t leave food lying around for long. If food has been left out for a period of time, you should think about throwing it out rather than putting it away to eat later.”
“Leftovers can taste great but they can also lead to severe gastro-intestinal illness if not handled correctly.”
As a general rule, food should be kept chilled below 4 degrees Centigrade, or heated above 50 degrees.
Food kept above 4 degrees or below 50 degrees for any period runs the very real risk of spoiling. So, don’t take the risk. Throw it out.