Holiday health emergencies

By Barb Dehn

Everyone wants to have a happy holiday season and enjoy family and friends. We also want it to be safe.

Most of us have plenty of tasty food, festive holiday drinks, and fun entertainment planned for holiday get togethers. There are a few other items you may want to stock up on just in case someone has a holiday emergency.

  1. Prevent choking. If small children are present, cut up hot dogs and grapes into ¼ pieces. Avoid games where people stuff marshmallows into their mouths. Make sure croutons are broken into smaller pieces Be prepared to assist someone who's choking with the Heimlich maneuver

    Here's a video of the Heimlich maneuver:

  2. Food Allergies Many people who suddenly develop a food allergy have had the food before. Others know what they're likely to react to. Nuts are the Number 1 offender. Especially peanuts. For some children, any exposure to peanuts or even peanut oil can cause a severe reaction, that ranges from a rash on their face, to wheezing and difficulty breathing to anaphylactic shock and death.

    How to recognize a severe reaction:
    The person's face will swell, becoming redder
    Their breathing rate will increase
    With each breath, you may hear a high pitched wheeze

    What to do:
    Ice packs to the face and exposed areas of skin
    Give Benadryl as liquid, tablet or cream
    If the person is having difficulty breathing, get them to a hospital right away, or call 911.

    Here are some photos of children experiencing a severe allergic reaction to peanuts. Their parents graciously agreed to let me post their photos in the hopes that other parents would recognize the symptoms immediately to prevent tragedy. This is Adam | This is Jackson.

    Luckily, both of these little guys are fine now, but even a small amount of peanut exposure to their skin can cause these reactions.

  3. If there's a burn
    Do not use butter. Use Ice, ice and more ice for at least 20-30 minutes, because the heat continues to move through the tissue
    Place pots and pans on the back burners
    Use handy tools to use to move the oven racks
    Make sure oven mitts aren't worn out

  4. Signs of a stroke


    F: Face - Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their smile droop?

    A: Arms - Ask the person to raise both arms. Is one lower?

    S: Speech - Ask them to repeat a phrase. Is it slurred? Is it correct?

    T: Time - You don't have much time to get them help. Call 911 or get to the hospital as fast as possible. Every minute more brain cells are dying.

    In the Bay Area, there are many hospitals that have all the credentials to be Stroke Centers. They have teams of people in place, the right equipment to diagnose the problem and the ability to use a clot busting drug, known as TPA - Tissue Plasminogen Activator.

    For more information: See the National Stroke Association

    El Camino Hospital is the only hospital in the region* to receive HealthGrades Stroke Care Excellence Award™ four years in a row (2005-2008).
    Websites: |

  5. Food poisoning
    The last thing anyone needs during the holidays is vomiting and diarrhea from food poisoning. If food hasn't been properly cooked or has been contaminated from germs on counters or from hands that didn't get washed, then people can get very sick, very fast.

    Prevention is key:
    Wipe down surfaces after preparing raw meat, chicken or fish
    Make sure all food is well cooked
    If you used raw eggs in the recipe, don't lick the bowl

Have a happy and healthy holiday, be well, Nurse Barb.

About Barb Dehn, RN, MS, NP
Barb Dehn is a practicing Women's Health Nurse Practitioner, award winning author, and a nationally recognized health expert. She holds a BS from Boston College and earned Masters degree at the University of California, San Francisco. An in demand and popular national speaker on all aspects of women's health, she also lectures at Stanford and is a frequent health expert on NBC's iVillageLive and recently In the Loop with iVillage.

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