Sat, Jan 24, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Eat moderately during holiday, doctors advise

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The number of people rushed to emergency rooms across the country during the Lunar New Year holidays is about six times higher than on regular days, with stomach flu topping the list of illnesses, health department statistics showed.

Statistics released recently by the Bureau of National Health Insurance showed that more than 100,000 visits to the emergency room were made during the six-day Lunar New Year holiday last year. The top three health complaints made by people visiting the ER during the holiday were gastroenteritis, acute upper respiratory tract infection and surface wounds.

Gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu, topped the list and accounted for more than 6,800 emergency visits each day.

“Large meals consumed during the holiday season can cause problems for the stomach and intestines,” bureau section chief Wang Ben-ren (王本仁) said. “This can be avoided by eating the right amount at the right time, as well as maintaining personal hygiene.”

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by food prepared in unsanitary conditions, as well as eating large amounts of food at irregular hours, which is common during the holiday season, said Yao Chien-an (姚建安), an attending physician of National Taiwan University Hospital's Department of Family Medicine.

“Many people heat and re-heat leftover dishes. Cooking too much food may cause food to get spoiled, which is why many people develop gastroenteritis and have to be rushed to the hospital,” he said.

Yao recommended having over-the-counter stomach flu medicine readily available in the house, because it may be inconvenient or time-consuming to see a doctor during the holidays when many clinics are closed.

“When going to crowded areas, wear a face mask,” he said.

Eating freshly prepared food, avoiding street stalls and eating in moderation are ways to avoid stomach problems during the holiday, he said.

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