[COLUMN] Christmas ailments

WHAT is Christmas Disease?

This name does not have nothing to do with the Christmas season. Christmas Disease is a blood disease, also known as Hemophilia B or factor IX hemophilia. It is a hereditary bleeding disorder due to deficiency in coagulation factor IX. This condition is X-linked recessive inheritance, affecting only males, and occurs in 1 in 100,000 male births. This illness causes spontaneous bleeding in the joints.

What is Christmas Blues?

Christmas Blues is a form of mild depression (called Seasonal Affective Disorders, or SAD for short) that happens to some of us, normal and healthy people, during the Christmas season or other festive family occasions. Empty nest syndrome, where the grown-up or married children have left home, creating an empty and lonely feeling in the parents, especially the mothers, is one such type of emotion that is magnified by family occasions like Christmas, New Year, birthdays, etc. Frequent visits from the children or family reunions during the holidays minimize these “blues” and provide a sense of parental security and happiness, especially among elderly parents. The other common cause of this extreme sadness is poor financial situation in life, where self-pity, panic, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness prevail especially on a holiday like Christmas.

Is guilt more common at Christmastime?

Yes, somehow this season of the birth of Christ, according to psychologists, brings out in most of us our good and better qualities, such as a more youthful exuberance, honesty, sincerity, compassion and humanity. During this season, many of us become more critical of ourselves and our past actions (sins of omission or commission against our parents, siblings or friends, or our less privileged fellowmen) and hence the feeling of guilt is more common on this holiday, and also a contributing factor to Christmas Blues.

What is the shelf life of food at room temperature?

Different types of food have different “spoilage times.” Fish, processed meat, cream-filled pastries, custards, fruits salads, noodles (pancit), food cooked with tomatoes provide good media for bacterial growth after more than 6 hours of exposure to room temperature, depending on how warm the ambient temperature is. Some dishes, like adobo or paksiw could last for even a week in room temperature without spoiling, unless contaminated by handlers. The prudent thing to do is to refrigerate the leftovers as soon as the meal is completed. Those who do not have a refrigerator should not cover the food airtight, since this will not allow the food “to breathe” and would tend to increase the heat and pressure, leading to a much shorter “spoilage time.” If using a plastic wrap, poke a few holes on it to allow for better ventilation. Keep the food in an ice box or in the coldest part of the house and eat it within 24 hours.

What are the other common winter illnesses?

The dozen common ailments of Christmas include: the common cold, the flu, Christmas tree allergies, Chilblains (small itchy swellings in extremities), dry skin and eczema, SAD, alcohol poisoning, indigestion, ear infection, Norovirus, sore throat, frostbite and hypothermia. We can add: RSV and COVID-19.

Do wines or beer prevent diarrhea?

To some extent, yes, but the dose of the enteroxins determines the potential seriousness of the condition. Imbibing alcoholic drinks during a (contaminated) meal does not confer guaranteed immunity from these bacterial or parasitic diarrheas. The low alcohol content of all these drinks is not enough to “sterilize” our gastrointestinal tract.

What is Chinese Food Syndrome?

This condition could sometimes mimic a heart attack. For some people, it causes chest pains, headache, facial pressure and warmth, and burning sensations throughout the body, sometimes with dizziness or fainting.  This phenomenon is a pharmacologic reaction to monosodium glutamate (MSG or betsin), a popular white powder food seasoning used in cooking. The symptoms are not really due to an allergic reaction and is dose related. Most people are not bothered by MSG, but a small percentage react to it more severely. Although death is very rare with this syndrome, a surgeon classmate of mine, who was attending a meeting in France several years years ago, had so violent a reaction after ingesting food with monosodium glutamate that he expired within an hour thereafter. But this is very rare. MSG has been studied a lot and found to be safe for most people.

Those who develop any of the four symptoms enumerated above after eating food cooked with MSG should clearly request chefs or cooks in restaurants, at home, or anywhere else, not to use MSG in preparing their food. Because of this syndrome, most Chinese (and other) restaurants today no longer use MSG. If in doubt, ask the manager or waiters, and instruct them accordingly.

What is Holiday Heart Syndrome?

Prevalent during holidays, this symptom complex is mainly characterized by cardiac arrythmias (heart rhythm irregularity), mostly due to alcoholic binges. The excitement brought on by the festivities and ingestion of a lot of caffeine (coffee, chocolate, cola drinks) during the holidays could also play a role in this syndrome.

On this sacred season, there is nothing more hurtful than being forgotten, neglected, or abandoned, especially our elders, friends or family, who are far from us. Let’s make sure they know we are thinking of them, we love and value them. That’s the best gift we could give them, not found in stores, but plenty in our heart. That will warm them during the winter of their life.

Here’s wishing you and your loved ones a safe and joyful Christmas and a New Year blessed with love, good health, cheers, prosperity, and peace. Let’s all pray for understanding, compassion, forgiveness, and serenity around the world.

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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995, conferred by then Indiana Governor, later Senator, and then presidential candidate, Evan Bayh. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali, and Astronaut Gus Grissom (Wikipedia). Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].


Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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