Can Lunar New Year be bad for your health?
The Real-time Outbreak and Disease Surveillance (RODS) system has released multiple alerts in the past few days due to the high volume of respiratory symptoms cases that have been treated in emergency rooms.
The RODS system, in place since the SARS epidemic in 2003, automatically logs the symptoms of all cases and analyze them for patterns that cause concern, Center for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director Shih Wen-yi (
The CDC said the increase in people going to emergency rooms for sore throats, runny noses, coughs and bronchitis could be explained by the extended Lunar New Year celebrations.
"During the holidays, people are on the move," Shih said. "A higher infection rate for diseases such as influenza that cause respiratory symptoms is to be expected. Also, most doctors are not seeing patients over the Lunar New Year holidays, so many have no choice but to go to the emergency room to get treatment."
RODS alerts have been issued for Taipei City, Hsinchu city and county, Miaoli County, Taichung city and county, Changhua and Yunlin counties, Kaohsiung and Tainan cities, he said.
For the remainder of the holidays, Shih has urged the public to take measures to make the possibility of catching an infection less likely.
"Avoid enclosed spaces with lots of people," Shih said. "Open some windows, or take the opportunity to spend time outdoors with your family."
"Some exercise could give your immune system a boost too," Shih said.
The increased likelihood of colds and flus is just one way in which having too much fun during the Lunar New Year holiday could be bad for your health.
"When I get back to my regular office hours, I find that some patients have gained two to three kilos over the new year," said Chu Nain-feng (
"It could take months for people to lose that weight," Chu said.
The combination of high-salt, high-calorie foods and marathon mahjong sessions results in weight gain as well as increased blood sugar and blood pressure, Chu said.
"People completely abandon their regular schedules and play mahjong or watch TV all night while snacking on candy and dried squid," Chu said. "No wonder their blood pressure and sugars shoot up."
For many Taiwanese families, mahjong and snack foods are obligatory for the Lunar New Year holidays.
"There's nothing wrong with mahjong," Chu said. "Just remember to go to bed."
And hands off that dried squid, which despite its innocent appearance is packed with calories and salt, Chu said.
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