12 Steps to a Healthy Christmas

As Christmas approaches, it can be a mad rush to get all the presents wrapped and food bought for the big day. Leaving things until the last minute can be stressful, but in your rush to buy those last few gifts, don’t forget to look after your own and your family’s health.

Here are 12 steps to ensure you have a healthy and happy Christmas.

Step 1: Plan ahead

Medication: If you take regular medication, make sure you have enough to see you through the Christmas period. If you don’t, contact your GP practice before they close for Christmas for further advice.

Away for Christmas? If you are spending the festive season away from home, make sure that you pack enough medication. It is also important to find out what health services (including GP out of hours) are available in the area you are visiting.

Travelling Aboard: If you’re travelling abroad, do you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and is it still valid? To apply for a EHIC free of charge, contact 0300 3301350 or apply online.

Step 2: Get your flu vaccine

It is during the winter months that we are more likely to catch colds and flu. For some, having flu can have a greater effect on their health. If you are over 65, and have a long term health condition, or are the main carer for an elderly or disabled person – you can get your flu vaccine from your GP. Click here for further information on other groups of people recommended to have the flu vaccine.

Step 3. Stock up

Oxygen: If you use home oxygen therapy, check that you have enough oxygen supply for the Christmas period. If you are going away make sure you make arrangements for any oxygen that you need. For further information contact your GP.

First Aid Box: Do you have a first aid box to manage minor wounds? Do you know what needs to be in it? For further information, visit our interactive first aid box.

Medicine Cabinet: It’s worth checking that you have enough basic medicines stocked in your home to manage common health problems. Basic medicines can help with common ailments such as coughs, colds, headaches, indigestion, upset stomach and diarrhoea. To find out what medicines should be in your medicine cabinet and what they can be used for, visit our medicine cabinet.

You can buy a number of medicines over the counter at your local pharmacy. Please check the recommended dosage before taking any medicines and do not exceed this dosage. Also ask the pharmacist for advice before using more than one medicine at a time.

Step 4: List Useful Contact Details

To save you searching for numbers, it’s worth listing all useful contact details, for example your ICE contact (In Case of an Emergency), your dentist, your GP or any other useful local health services, especially if visiting relatives in an area you’re not familiar with.

If you need to contact your GP or dentist, out of hours, just contact your usual GP surgery or Dental practice number and follow the instructions on the messaging service.

If you need to see a GP whilst away outside of Wales (but still in the UK), contact a GP practice in the area and ask to be seen as a temporary patient.

Click here to find pharmacies that are open during the Christmas period, or alternatively contact NHS Direct Wales 0845 46 47 for further information.

There is also a Health, Wellbeing and Support directory on our website, it includes contact details for a number of local and national groups including befriending groups, choirs, alcohol support groups and support for the homeless.

Step 5: Stay Safe

Christmas is a time to celebrate with friends and family. To ensure you and your family stay safe:-
  • Check the weather forecast if visiting friends/relatives
  • Prepared for the drive? - To ensure you and your vehicle are prepared for the drive, visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website for winter driving tips and what should keep in your car
  • Check on vulnerable neighbours and friends during the winter period.
  • Personal Safety - When you are out keep your drink with you at all times, avoid walking home on your own and keep your personal belongings close to you at all times.
  • Be responsible with your alcohol intake – you can check how many units are in your drinks by using the alcohol units calculator
  • Never leave your drink unattended - unless it’s with someone that you trust. For further information please read drink spiking
  • Never Drink and Drive. By drinking and driving, you risk your life, those of your passengers and others on the road
  • Be aware the morning after. You could be over the legal limit many hours after your last drink, even if it's the 'morning after'. Sleep, coffee and cold showers don't help to sober you up. Time is the only way to get alcohol out of your system. For further information, visit THINK

Step 6: Keep well

GP: If you are in pain or are worried about a condition then make an appointment with your GP before the Christmas holidays. Check your GP opening times over Christmas in case you need to contact them in an emergency.

Dentist: Visit the dentist if you are experiencing toothache or use our dental symptom checker for further advice and information.

Pharmacy: Order any repeat prescriptions in advance to make sure you have enough over the Christmas period. Some pharmacies will be open for limited periods over the bank holidays, others may not open at all. You can get some emergency prescriptions which will cover you for five days. However, you will only get one if it is a genuine emergency, it is not a controlled drug (e.g. morphine, pethidine, methadone), you go to the pharmacy in person and it is impossible to see GP. Please note – there may be a charge for this. Click here to find pharmacies that are open during the Christmas period.

Remember if you need any information or are unsure what to do if you are feeling unwell then you can contact NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47. NHS Direct Wales is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week even over the Christmas period.

Step 7: Keep Active

Safe and enjoyable exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle. It may be harder to exercise in the colder weather but do try and keep active as much as you can.

Step 8: Keep Warm

As energy bills rise, you may feel reluctant to turn the thermostat up. However, it is important to stay warm. Age UK have some great ideas of how you can keep yourself warm and well this winter:

  • Wear several thin layers, rather than one thick layer. This is because they trap warm air close to the body
  • Go for clothes made from wool, cotton or fleecy fabrics, if possible
  • Draw your curtains, as soon as it gets dark to stop the heat escaping and the draughts coming in
  • Keep any windows and internal doors closed when it’s cold – this will keep heat inside, where you most need it
  • A lot of heat is lost through the head and neck, so if you’re chilly indoors, try wearing a hat and scarf
  • Your body keeps warm by burning food you've eaten, so make sure you have regular hot meals that contain carbohhydrates, such as potatoes, pasta, bread and rice. Try porridge with hot milk for breakfast and soups and stews for lunch and dinner.
  • If you’re sitting down, a shawl or blanket will provide extra warmth. You should also try to keep your feet up, because air is cooler at ground level.
  • Wear warm clothes in bed. When it’s really cold, wear thermal underwear, bed socks and even a hat.

Step 9: Food safety

To help protect your family from food poisoning, remember to wash your hands before preparing food and remember to cook your food correctly.

Handy Tips:

  • Wash your hands
  • If you only have one chopping board wash it after using it for cutting raw meat and before cutting ready to eat foods on it.
  • Don’t wash meat before cooking it. Washing doesn’t get rid of harmful germs – only proper cooking will. You also run the risk of splashing germs onto worktops and utensils
  • To check that chicken or meat is cooked properly, when you cut into the deepest part there should be no pinkness left and any juices should run clear
  • Some meat such as steaks and joints of beef can be served rare as long as the outside as been properly cooked and ‘sealed’.

Click here for more information on food safety.


Step 10: Do a good deed

There’s a variety of ways you can do a good deed which brings a smile to you and other people’s faces. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Visit a neighbour and cheer them up by having a chat or ask if you can help them in anyway
  • Donate to charity
  • Donate a food item to a food bank

Step 11: Choose Well

If you are unwell at any time then it is important that you access the right health service to suit your needs. The Choose Well campaign provides you with information on when to contact each health service. Click here to find out which service you should contact or take the Choose Well Challenge

If you suspect you have a cold or flu, you can check your symptoms with our cold and flu checker. You can also find out how to self-care for common illnesses by reading our caring for yourself page.

Remember if you need any information or are unsure what to do if you are feeling unwell then you can contact NHS Direct Wales on 0845 46 47. NHS Direct Wales is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Step 12:

From all the team at NHS Direct Wales have a Merry Christmas!!