Ask the Doctor
Presented by Centers Urgent Care
The questions on your mind, answered by the doctors you trust
A Happy and Healthy Purim
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, Benjamin Franklin famously said. As one of the Brooklyn leaders in Urgent Care, our mission is to provide the highest quality care to those in need of medical assistance. In our ‘Ask the Doctor’ column, we hope to expand on our services by interviewing medical professionals so that we can provide the community with valuable information that will assist with prevention of potential illnesses and health complications.
For our second feature, we sat down with the doctors at Centers Urgent Care for a conversation that covers the Purim health concerns that readers need to be aware of. We are grateful to our medical team who took time out of their busy schedules to speak to us.
Q: When it comes to Purim, the first thing that comes to mind is alcohol. What kind of health concerns are there for people who drink on Purim?
A: From a medical perspective, there are two major short-term dangers. Drunk driving and alcohol poisoning. While drunk driving might seem like more of a law enforcement issue, the fact is that there are few things more hazardous to your own health than getting behind the steering wheel while under the influence.
Q: We hear every year about people being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. Can you tell us more about how it works and at what point this can become a concern?
A: A regular serving of alcohol that a person’s liver can safely metabolize is one drink per hour. A drink would generally refer to about 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of whiskey. Such an amount assures that the person’s BAC (blood alcohol content) remains at safe levels. When someone binge drinks a few drinks in an hour, the alcohol overwhelms their body and their brain might begin shutting down some of its vital functions. This is referred to as ‘alcohol poisoning’ and it is often fatal.
Q: What are the symptoms that require hospitalization?
A: Every person is different in how their body processes alcohol. It depends on age, health, weight etc. The way to know if someone is in danger is if the person has passed out, is experiencing loss of coordination, irregular breathing, seizures or other discouraging signs of distress. When in doubt, call Hatzalah and DON’T count on the patient to sleep it off. It can be the difference between life and death.
Additionally, there is concern of aspiration where alcohol causes vomiting which then goes down and leads to choking. Every year, Hatzalah responds to calls of this nature and the results are often devastating.
Q: What should be done until help is on the way?
A: The first thing is to make sure they don’t drink any more alcohol. Try to keep the patient awake, lie them down on their side and keep them warm and sheltered.
Q: Those who drink moderately and safely, what should they be concerned about?
A: Drunk driving. Even smaller amounts of alcohol can impair judgment enough to put a driver in significant danger as their response time is slowed. If you have ANYTHING to drink, make sure to give your keys away. In addition to your health, an accident under the influence can wreck the life of an otherwise law-abiding citizen. Additionally, anyone who drinks alcohol should make sure to drink lots and lots of water or juice so that their bodies stay hydrated. Lastly, hypothermia can set in when the weather on Purim is cold and drinkers don’t feel the effects until they start getting sick.
Q: People often complain about headaches or ‘hangovers’ the day after Purim, what can be done to prevent this?
A: As mentioned, alcohol causes your body to dehydrate. The effects felt the next morning stem from this process. The best way to avoid and treat a hangover is by drinking lots and lots of non-alcoholic fluids that will rehydrate your body. Gatorade and Powerade can also help the body get some much-needed electrolytes.
Q: We know that its illegal to give alcohol to an unaccompanied minor but what should adults know about allowing their children to take a drink?
A: Besides the bad decisions that children and teenagers are prone to make while under the influence, they are also at a greater risk than adults as their smaller, developing bodies have a lower alcohol tolerance. Additionally, youngsters might be attracted to the brief euphoric feeling that alcohol provides and put themselves on a dangerous path to addiction.
Q: Let’s talk about matters that don’t relate to drinking. What Purim-specific health concerns have you come across?
A: The easy answer is overeating, especially with unhealthy foods. Adults and children should have a plan of how much they will allow themselves to eat, and then stick to it. Those who fast on Taanis Esther should take extra caution to drink enough water and go easy on the junk the first night and let their bodies recover from the fast.
Q: That’s the easy answer…. What are some things people might not be aware of?
A: We discussed earlier the dangers of drunk driving. Children who are pedestrians are at an increased risk of being hit by a driver under the influence. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many Purim costumes (with masks) don’t offer children a clear line of vision to see potential oncoming vehicles.
Q: Speaking of costumes, are there any other health concerns parents need to be aware of?
A: A number of issues come to mind: 1) Many costumes are not flame resistant and if Chas Veshulem, they catch fire from a candle, the child can be trapped in a flammable suit. 2) Oftentimes children will not wear a coat over their costume or warm clothing underneath it. This can lead to children getting sick. 3) Face paint, makeup and similar items need to be deemed safe for your child’s skin.
Q: Kids enjoy playing with cap guns and ‘Purim Shtik’. Is there any danger in allowing these items?
A: There is definitely cause for concern. These exploding caps can cause injuries to eyes, ears & skin. If a child is hurt from a cap gun, wash the affected area with running water and have the child visit an urgent care.
Thank you for time!
A: Our pleasure. Purim is a beautiful time, but every year we see families whose Purim is interrupted by an emergency visit to an urgent care or emergency room.
Let’s be smart, safe, and have a happy and HEALTHY Purim!