Sick after partying? Tips on treating post-CNY ailments

Sick after partying? Tips on treating post-CNY ailments

SINGAPORE - You have relished the reunion dinner and scoffed down multiple servings of snacks.

Even though the festive revelry is far from over, your body is already showing signs of discomfort.

Your three-day break was probably not restful or healthful. You are probably tired from visiting one relative’s house after another, staying up late for mahjong sessions and talking non-stop during each visit.

Your digestive system is probably groaning from overwork, breaking down the oily snacks and sugary soda which you stuffed yourself silly with.

So here you are, nursing a headache and a queasy stomach. Worse, you are also feeling down about being back in the office – an anti-climax after the festive high.

Mind Your Body asked general practitioners and a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician to identify common ailments and share tips to get your body back on track for the year ahead.

Cold and flu

What doctors say

The overnight mahjong sessions and visiting have taken a toll on your immune system. This makes you more susceptible to viruses that cause the common cold or the more serious influenza, and its greater potential for complications such as pneumonia or chest infections.

A cold would leave you with one or a combination of symptoms, such as a runny nose, cough or sore throat.

But an infection with the flu virus will make you sicker with fever and body aches.

When generations of relatives congregate in a place, it puts you in close proximity with others who may already be sick, so practise good personal hygiene. Do not touch your face, especially your mouth, nose or eyes, with unwashed hands.

Encourage others to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly with soap and water.

Doctor's advice

The body repairs itself best during rest, so get enough rest.

Alleviate your symptoms with over-the-counter medication, such as cough mixture to ease coughs and paracetamol to relieve body ache and fever. Consult a pharmacist if there is a need to.

But if your symptoms of a runny nose or cough last for more than a week, see a doctor to exclude sinus or chest infections.

If you have a runny nose and are racked with significant headache or pain over the cheeks, it is possible that you have a sinus infection.

This warrants more aggressive treatment with antibiotics, steroids or nasal sprays, so consult a doctor immediately.

What TCM says

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the lungs are usually the first internal organs to be attacked by external pathogens such as bacteria or viruses.

When this happens, the lungs lose qi (vital life force), which is required for good health, and the person is said to be down with a cold.

There are two variations of colds that TCM physicians look out for.

In the first variety, you exhibit "cold" symptoms, such as feeling chilly, having watery mucus, a weak pulse and not sweating even at high temperatures.

How TCM can help

Drinking something "warm" might ease your symptoms. Make a beverage with three red dates, 3g of ginger, 3g of dried sage leaves and 15g of red sugar. Slice the ginger and remove the seeds from the red dates, before adding these into a teapot with dried sage leaves.

Pour 200 to 300ml of boiling water into the pot and let it simmer for five to 10 minutes. Stir red sugar into the drink and serve it hot. On the other hand, if you experience "heaty" symptoms such as a sore throat, red tongue, nosebleeds, yellow mucus and a quick pulse, you should drink "cooling" tea.

Immerse 10g of reed rhizome (lugen), 5g of chrysanthemum (juhua) and 5g of honeysuckle flower (jinyin hua) in boiling water and serve.

Stomach ache

What doctors say

You may have overindulged or eaten something that disagreed with you. Whichever the case, indigestion and diarrhoea could make this Chinese New Year a misery.

Diarrhoea is a sign of gastroenteritis, a viral, bacterial or parasitic infection commonly picked up through contaminated food or water. The microbes can be passed on to others through contaminated hands and by touching the mouth.

The lining of the intestines becomes inflamed and cannot carry out its normal functions of digestion and absorption. Poorly digested food is passed out with a lot of water.

The abdominal pain is due to spasms of the intestines, which contract and relax in a bid to expel contaminants with faecal matter. If you think the festive season gives you reason to overeat, you might pay the price in indigestion.

The process of digestion, where food moves from the stomach to the intestines for nutrient absorption, typically takes four to five hours.

Your stomach is like a bag with a fixed capacity, so stuffing yourself does not allow enough time for the food in it to be processed. Bloatedness and nausea follow.

Indigestion is sometimes associated with gastric acid reflux, often described as heartburn, where one experiences burning discomfort. Long-term acid reflux can damage the food pipe known as the oesophagus.

Doctor's advice

Allow your stomach to rest by keeping to a light diet of soup, porridge and oats. Steer clear of oily and spicy food for the time being. Instead of three hearty meals, opt for smaller meals throughout the day. If you have lost your appetite, go for glucose drinks that replenish minerals lost during diarrhoea.

Keep well-hydrated with fluids. Take non-carbonated isotonic drinks that replace lost minerals and electrolytes - sodium, chloride and potassium - which are vital for cell function.

Avoid dairy products during the episode of diarrhoea and at least a week after your symptoms have resolved.

Temporary lactose intolerance will make it difficult to digest the lactose in dairy products and aggravate the diarrhoea.

Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist beyond three days, as more serious conditions such as chronic infections or irritable bowel syndrome may be the root of your problem.

What TCM says

When you overeat or eat contaminated food, the spleen and stomach, which are responsible for food digestion and absorption, are overworked and become less efficient. That causes poor appetite and diarrhoea.

How TCM can help

Eat 15g of hawthorn fruit (shanzha) or 15g of germinated barley (maiya) on their own. You can also prepare them together as a beverage.

Sore throat

What doctors say

Sore throats are commonly caused by viruses or bacteria. If you are coughing at the same time, you expel the virus or bacterium which then spreads easily through the air from one person to the next during family gatherings and parties.

The trigger for sore throats is often the same viruses and bacteria that cause colds or other upper respiratory illnesses.

An infection of streptococcal bacteria is commonly called strep throat. This is a severe form of sore throat that causes fever, swollen lymph glands and excruciating throat pain which makes it difficult to swallow or even speak.

Other causes of a sore throat include breathing through the mouth during sleep and smoking, both of which produce throat dryness and soreness.

A sore throat may also result from a process called a postnasal drip, in which mucus is discharged from the nose into the throat, for example, in allergic conditions such as allergic rhinitis.

This causes irritation to the throat. With sinusitis, it is pus which pours backwards into the throat.

Doctor's advice

Make sure your throat is lubricated by drinking enough fluid. You should also use lozenges or salt water gargles to provide temporary pain relief.

A humidifier may be helpful in relieving symptoms, especially in sore throats caused by breathing in dry air through the mouth.

A strep throat may result in enlarged, tender lymph nodes in the neck. If you find you have swollen lymph nodes, a stiff neck, fever and white spots at the back of your throat, you are likely to have strep throat.

Consult a doctor immediately. Antibiotics will usually be prescribed.

What TCM says

Chinese New Year goodies such as pineapple tarts and bak kwa (barbecued pork slices) are considered "heaty" food in traditional Chinese medicine.

So are the Mandarin oranges that figure prominently during visiting.

"Heaty" food is believed to produce heat and dampness in the body, leading to a sore throat and phlegm. The heat from the food consumes the body fluid, causing thirst too.

How TCM can help

TCM practitioners recommend that a person dispels the "heat" in the body and moistens the organs to soothe a sore throat. Prepare "cooling" tea with a snow pear (xueli) and half an Arhan fruit (luohan guo) to drink once a day.

Another option would be to mix 12g of Cochinchinese asparagus root (tiandong), 12g of dwarf lilyturf tuber (maidong), 9g of platycodon root (jiegeng), 6g of liquorice root (gancao) and 6g of Vietnamese Sophora root (shandou gen) into a pot of boiling water to make tea.

The experts are: Dr Tan Sai Tiang from Hua Mei Clinic in Central Plaza, Dr Bina Kurup from the Raffles Medical Group and Ms Zhu Ping, a senior physician at Hua Mei Acupuncture and TCM Centre.

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