Health: Where to go if you come a cropper over Christmas

THERE'S nothing like getting ill at Christmas to put a dampener on festivities.

With bad weather, winter bugs and overdoing it the food and alcohol, feeling under the weather can happen all too often. Not knowing where to go for help, when GPs and most pharmacists may be closed, can make things even worse.

But medics in Leeds are warning the hospital accident and emergency departments are no longer th e only option – and they shouldn't be the default choice for holiday healthcare.

Dr Kevin Reynard, consultant in emergency medicine at Leeds General Infirmary, said: "The A and E department's role is to provide immediate emergency care for people who show symptoms of serious illness or who are badly injured.

"Other people who come in with minor injuries or illnesses can end up waiting longer to be seen than if they choose a more appropriate service, like a minor injuries unit or walk-in centre.

"Last year in Leeds we saw people coming to A and E with relatively minor ailments like flu symptoms, sprained ankles and small cuts or grazes, which could all have been treated elsewhere. This puts a huge strain on emergency services and means patients with life-threatening illness may have to wait longer to be seen."

The Choose Well campaign is encouraging people to choose the right place for treatment and to remember what they can do to prepare themselves in case they become ill.

Dr Ian Cameron, executive director of public health for Leeds, said: "During the Christmas and New Year break there are changes to the regular opening hours of pharmacies and GP practices. With these changes, we advise people to keep a fully stocked medicine cabinet to ensure any minor health issues, such as headaches or sore throats, can be easily dealt with through simple self-caring."

Examples of common health issues and what you should do about them

Q: I am feeling generally unwell and can't decide which health service would be the best to help, can anyone advise me?

A: Ring West Yorkshire Urgent Care Services 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 0345 605 99 99 with any unexpected health problem. Someone in the team will ask you about your symptoms and tell you about health services in your local area. This service can also help you get an out-of-hours doctor's appointment if necessary.

Q: I went to the office Christmas party last night and drank too much. This morning my head hurts and I feel sick.

A: You can treat a hangover yourself by rehydrating your body and dealing with the symptoms. Alcohol causes your body to dehydrate because it loses salt and minerals.You can replace these by drinking plenty of bland liquids such as tap water and soda water.Isotonic drinks, whichyou can buy in most shops, will replace the salt your body has lost.

Over-the-counter painkillers will help relieve the pain of headaches and muscle cramps.Paracetamol-based remedies are best, as aspirin may irritate the stomach more and increase nausea and sickness.

Looking after yourself at home can also help with common winter complaints like a sore throat and runny nose. Colds can't be treated by antibiotics so drink plenty of fluids to helpreplace any fluids you may have lost due to sweating and having a runny nose, get plenty of rest and eathealthily. If your cough turns chesty, lasts for more than a few days, or you are coughing up green phlegm, ring NHS Direct for more advice.

Q: I think that I might have flu. I am aching all over and feel exhausted. Do I need antibiotics?

A: Flu is a virus, so antibiotics are not prescribed to treat it. However, occasionally it may be necessary to treat complications of flu, such as serious chest infections, with an antibiotic. Make sure you have plenty of rest and take paracetamol-based cold remedies tolower your temperature and relieve symptoms. Drinkplenty of fluidswhile you are recovering. You may need to stay in bed for two or three days after your symptoms peak.

Ring NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 for more information about what to do or log on to www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.

Q: I have been sick and now have diarrhoea, how can I stop it?

A: It is important to keep drinking non-fizzy drinks to replace the fluids your body has lost. Go to your local pharmacist, who can advise you of what to do and may be able to provide you with a remedy. Most pharmacies now have a private consultation area, where you can get advice away from other customers.

Q: I have found a lump and I am worried about it.

A: For health problems or worries like this, it is best to arrange an appointment with your doctor. For health problems that require a doctor's attention out of hours, ring your doctor's surgery and follow the recorded instructions.

Q: I've tripped over the Christmas tree lights and twisted my ankle and I'm finding it difficult to walk.

A: Go to a Minor Injuries Unit if your GP is unavailable. There are two in Leeds and these treat less serious injuries and illnesses, and can also do x-rays. If the limb looks noticeably deformed, then visit Accident and Emergency.

Q: I am passing urine more than often than usual and get a burning sensation when I do. I can't get to my GP.

A: Your local Walk-in Centre can arrange treatments without an appointment. The two in Leeds will treat people with common illnesses, muscle and joint injuries.

Q: I am having difficulty breathing and have chest pain.

A: Visit Accident and Emergency.

Where to go for medical help over the holidays

Minor Injuries Units

Wharfedale Hospital, Newall Carr Road, Otley,

0113 392 1647

Open 8am to 11pm everyday including bank holidays, closed Christmas Day.

St George's Centre, Middleton, Leeds

Open 8am to 10.30pm everyday including bank holidays, closed Christmas Day

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Walk-in Centres

The Headrow NHS Walk-in Centre, Unit B25, The Light, Leeds

0113 251 6000

Open Monday to Friday from 7am until 7pm. Closed bank holidays, including 25 to 28 December 2010 and 1 to 3 January 2011.

Shakespeare Medical Centre, Cromwell Mount, Leeds,

0113 295 1132

Open from 8am to 8pm every day, including all bank holidays.

For mental health advice contact:

The Samaritans who provide a listening service on 08457 909090 or information on www.samaritans.org

Saneline helpline which offers emotional support and information from 1pm to 11pm everyday on 0845 767 8000

Dial House, which is a safe place to visit when you feel you can't cope. Open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday 6pm – 2am including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Call 0113 260 9328 or log onto www.lslcs.org.uk

Local pharmacies

Local pharmacies open on an emergency rota over the holiday with at least one open in each area of Leeds for a few hours each day. For details, visit www.leeds.nhs.uk/christmas-opening-times

GP surgeries

GP surgeries will be closed from 25 to 28 December 2010 and 1 to 3 January 2011. If you are taking medicines regularly, make sure you get your repeat prescription in plenty of time.

To find out where to get emergency contraception, visit www.leeds.nhs.uk/christmas-opening-times.

For any general health advice or information, call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or log on to www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk.

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