During the holiday season, just about everything becomes busier with the hustle and bustle of people — including local emergency departments.
Although patient volumes typically peak in December across Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), many of those visits are preventable.
Below are VCH’s 12 safety tips of Christmas to keep you and your family healthy and out of the hospital:
• Ensure your prescriptions will last through to the New Year. If not, visit your doctor and get refills before many medical offices close for the holidays.
• Find out where your closest walk-in clinic is and its holiday hours in case your doctor is away.
• Know the difference between flu, the common cold and norovirus, and what you should do in each case. Get your flu shot, wash your hands often and cough/sneeze into your elbow to avoid sharing germs. If you’re over 50 years of age, VCH also recommends a pneumococcal vaccination. This is free for seniors aged 65 and over.
• Double check that your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in full working order.
• Keep salt and a snow shovel handy in case the white stuff falls. If you’re elderly or have medical issues, leave snow removal to professionals or neighbours willing to help.
• Don’t drink and drive. The consequences can be serious and fatal, so grab a cab home or arrange for a designated driver before you head out.
• Take a few simple steps to prevent falls this winter — slow down, wear shoes with traction and give a helping hand to anyone who needs help navigating a slippery sidewalk or parking lot.
• If you’re hosting a party, ensure the food you serve to your guests has been properly prepared, cooked and stored to avoid food poisoning.
• Take your time opening gifts and packages — carelessly using sharp tools can lead to serious cuts and gashes.
• Keep an eye out for elderly neighbours and family, ensuring their home is warm and that they have adequate food and medications over the holiday season. Be sure to check in on them regularly.
• Call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for confidential health information and non-emergency services 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For deaf and hearing-impaired assistance, dial 7-1-1.
• Keep prescription drugs, poisonous plants like poinsettias and holly berries, and all cleaning agents out of children’s reach.
If you experience life-threatening injuries or illnesses such as trauma, uncontrolled bleeding, heart attack or stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. If you have non-life threatening injuries and illness during the holiday season, visit HealthLink BC to find a list of local clinics, or see a pharmacist for help with medications. If you need to visit emergency, check out edwaittimes.ca to find an ED nearest you with the shortest wait.