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The festive break is a time for us to relax and enjoy ourselves. Unfortunately, illness doesn’t stop for the holidays. With the whole nation celebrating, what should you do if you fall ill over Christmas?

Help at home

Now’s the time to take stock of your prescription medications. If you’re running low, order more. If you have an illness and are travelling, make sure you’re properly insured and that the people you’re staying with know what medication you’re on and what to do if you become ill.

Minor injuries can be treated at home. Make sure you have a first aid kit with plasters, paracetamol, calpol, wound dressings and antiseptic to hand.

Is there someone to ring?

If you need advice or medical help for something that’s not life-threatening, you can call the NHS 111 service, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The NHS 111 service can also help point you in the direction of which health service you need – pharmacy, walk-in centre, GP surgery, minor injury unit or A&E.

Calls are free from landlines and mobiles.

Pop into the pharmacy

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can advise on common ailments, or refer you to a GP or walk-in centre. Some pharmacists are open much later than doctors and you don’t need to book an appointment.

Seeing the Doctor

Check if your local doctor is open during the holidays. Most GPs will only be shut on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Check with your surgery for their opening hours.

What if the GP is closed?

Walk in centres are open 365 days a year and are staffed by nurses and doctors. These centres are for minor illnesses or injuries. You don’t require an appointment or have to be registered, however during busy times you will have to wait to be seen.

You can find your nearest walk-in centre on the NHS website or by calling 111.

When shoud I go to A&E?

A&E is not an alternative to a GP and should only be used in emergencies. It should only be visited for life-threatening conditions such as loss of consciousness, persistent/severe chest pains, fits and convulsions that won’t stop, severe bleeding that cannot be stopped, a severe allergic reaction and burns/scalds.

Less severe injuries such as broken bones, animal bites or other injuries can be treated at minor injury or urgent care centres. By using these walk-in centres you take the strain off A&E departments during the busy Christmas period – and you’ll save yourself a long wait too! You can find your nearest walk-in centres on the NHS website or by calling 111.

Do I need to call 999?

You should only call 999 in a medical emergency – when someone’s life is at risk. It is important to ring 999 if someone has had a stroke, heart attack or medical trauma, as every second counts with these conditions. Major trauma usually occurs from a serious head injury, fall from height, stabbing, shooting or a serious traffic accident.

Stay safe this Christmas.

Dr Alexandra Phelan is a working NHS GP and Online Doctor with Pharmacy2U. Visit www.pharmacy2u.co.uk for further information.