Prepare before entering shop-till-you-drop season
Holiday shopping can be mentally painful – the stress, the crowds, the credit card bills and the seemingly endless repetition of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
But it also can be bad for your physical health. The exhaustion is a given. And stress is never good for your heart. But the hazards don’t stop there.
This year especially, spending long hours in crowds could increase your odds of picking up germs, including H1N1 or seasonal flu, said nurse Linda Kokoszki, director of infection control at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica, N.Y.
It’s also important to pay attention to your food and fluid intake.
“Make sure you drink enough fluids,” cautions Jean Borgia Walcott, a dietitian with Upstate Cerebral Palsy. “Adding holiday shopping to our already busy schedule, we tend to cut back on drinking water. Dehydration can actually make us feel tired and hungry, and can lead to binge eating."
And be sure to eat high-energy foods before shopping to keep focused and calm under pressure, she added.
Shopping can also take a toll on specific body parts.
“The long hours walking and standing on concrete can be quite irritating to the lower spine,” said chiropractor Dr. Daniel A. Dischiavo. So can lugging around heavy shopping bags, he added.
The feet can take a beating, too.
Wearing the wrong shoes can cut off circulation or exacerbate existing problems such as bunions or neuromas (a neuroma is a benign growth of nerve tissue frequently found between the third and fourth toes; the principle symptom associated with neuroma is pain between the toes while walking), said podiatrist Dr. Mark Schug.
The wrong footwear and the wrong socks can also lead to cold, wet feet, he said. Cold feet are bad for anyone with circulatory problems, especially diabetics. Cold, wet feet are worse, even if you don’t have circulation problems.
“One of the biggest concerns is you can actually get a type of frostbite, which can cause necrosis, or loss of tissue. It’s very painful. And also, you worry about infections, too,” Schug said.
Are there any potential health benefits to holiday shopping?
“If shopping is something that doesn’t produce stress and is enjoyable, it can perhaps be of some advantage to promoting a stronger immune system,” Kokoszki said. “That’s a bit of a stretch, though.”