Indigestion, tummy upsets, headaches and high temperatures – they are the main problems that people present with at pharmacies around Christmas time, according to Kathy Maher, a pharmacist based in Duleek, Co Louth for the past 20 years.

She has lots of advice about staying healthy this Christmas.

The first is to take a look at your first aid box and medicine cabinet ahead of Christmas to make sure that you have the simple products available that will keep you well if minor issues like those above arise.

“If you’re prepared there’s less stress,” she says. “Over-indulgence can lead to issues like tummy upsets and winter is a time for viruses so make sure that you have simple things like antacids, simple paracetamol and adult and child versions of ibuprofen if you have children in the house,” she says.

Rehydration medication is also very important.

“I would swear by Dioralyte sachets for any kind of dehydration and it doesn’t have be sun or tummy bug related,” she says.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults and children:

  • feeling thirsty
  • dark yellow and strong-smelling pee - healthy pee should look pale yellow
  • feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • feeling tired
  • dry mouth, lips and eyes
  • peeing little, and fewer than four times a day
  • There are some additional signs to watch out for in children. Visit

    Dehydration can happen more easily if you have:

  • a high temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or more


  • vomiting or diarrhoea
  • drunk too much alcohol
  • sweated too much after exercising
  • been taking medicines that make you pee more (diuretics)
  • have been in the sun too long (heatstroke)
  • (Source: HSE)

    Collect prescriptions early

    Having the prescription medications you need over the festive season is very important also. Kathy’s advice is to get organised.

    “For anyone who uses prescription medicines, we would say have your prescription ordered, filled and collected a few days before Christmas Eve. It does sound basic but because people are rushing around and trying to do so much - finishing up at work, doing the shopping, looking after children or grannies or parents or whatever – getting a vital medicine can be missed out on so, to reduce your stress, make sure that you have everything you need in the house.”

    Ordering prescription medicines in advance is also important to avoid possible supply issues.

    “We have seen some issues with supply with a few medicines into Ireland so people should try and get their prescription early,” she says.

    Opening hours

    Knowing your local pharmacy’s opening hours over the Christmas holiday can help if some health issue turns up.

    Typically, most pharmacies will only be closed on December 25 and 26 but because Christmas Day is on Sunday this year, the break may be longer so check with your local pharmacy about emergency cover, if needed.”

    Knowing your GP opening hours and having the out-of-hours on-call service number handy is important too.

    “Stick the numbers and opening hour details on your fridge door for handiness. If there are any minor ailments like tummy upsets or indigestion or coughs or colds, treat simply with medicines that you have at home.

    “If you are worried, contact your pharmacy or on-call GP service or minor injury unit or Emergency Department, depending on your concerns. There are different places for different conditions so go to the appropriate place for treatment if you need them.”

    Flu vaccine

    The really important thing at this time of year is the flu vaccine, she believes.

    “Great numbers of adults have come forward to get it, but we would like to see a greater number of children 2-17 year olds being vaccinated. The vaccination is very easy – it’s a nasal spray and it’s free for that age group and easily done.

    “We’re in what’s called ‘a cluster season’ now where there is a lot more gatherings particularly after the last couple of [lockdown] years. What many people don’t realise is that while younger children may get a milder dose of flu, they can shed that flu virus for longer than an adult. As adults we might shed the virus for up to seven days after we’ve carried it but a younger person can shed it for up to 11 days. If, during that time, you come into contact, then, with an older, more vulnerable person they are at higher risk of getting the flu. We’d urge parents of anyone between the ages of 2-17 to get their children vaccinated because of the risk to other age groups as well as to themselves.”

    Beat the stress

    People get very stressed around this time of year and from a holistic point of view Kathy advises people to mind themselves, to pause and enjoy what matters.

    “Stress comes up in conversations at the counter a lot at this time of year,” she says.

    “It’s important to pause, take stock, check in with your loved ones and friends and with your stress levels. Look at the things you need to do like meditation or just taking time out. Christmas is a time for you to enjoy, not to allow yourself to become over stressed.”

    There is a lot to be said, too, for sharing the load, she says.

    “Typically in a household, the mother, the matriarch, would be flying around doing everything in the approach to Christmas, but you shouldn’t take everything on. Talk and share the tasks if you find the stress is building up.”

    If needs be, there are herbal or complementary therapies available in pharmacies that can be used to relieve stress e.g. Rescue remedy.

    Chat to your pharmacist about what’s safe and effective. Consult your GP if stress is a major issue.

    Alcohol and medication

    Mixing alcohol with medication should always be checked with your pharmacist beforehand.

    “Some medicines are fine when alcohol is consumed [in moderation], Kathy says, “but others can have a variety of reactions like increased drowsiness or confusion, low mood or gastrointestinal issues. Pharmacists will advise on how to safely take alcohol when on medication.”

    In terms of people staying healthy over Christmas from a physical health perspective, eating nutritious food is important.

    “There is going to be a bit of over indulgence, we all do it, but everything in moderation.”

    Exercise- walk on

    Exercise shouldn’t be forgotten during the holiday period either.

    “There are some really beautiful December mornings, so get up and try get some outdoor time each day,” she advises. “Participate in community events like the Goal mile or Christmas day swims. We’ve seen these kinds of local events mushroom recently and they are really good family occasions. You can never regret doing exercise. Even if it’s not very strenuous a small amount of activity will boost mood and relieve stress.”

    Safe pharmacy

    For those with serious problems at home she reminds readers that there are lots of helplines out there.

    “Christmas can be a difficult time for some and 24 hour helplines like the Samaritans and Pieta will be in operation all over the holiday.”

    She points out that pharmacies launched a ‘Safe Pharmacy’ campaign last summer.

    “If anyone is concerned or worried about someone who may be at risk of violence or coercive control – and these numbers can spike in holiday season unfortunately – the person can present in any pharmacy that displays a Safe Pharmacy sign and be enabled to make a call to access help. It’s important that people know about this service.”

    Over 1,000 pharmacies are now active members of the IPU led Safe Pharmacy. The initiative is supported by Safe Ireland, An Garda Síochána and the HSE.

    RSV – protect your family

    RSV, or Bronchiolitis, is a common chest infection in babies and young children and is prevalent this year, with about 2% becoming serious and requiring hospitalization. Parents are advised to trust their instinct, and to always contact their GP if they are worried, especially if the symptoms get worse quickly. More information and advice can be found at

    The HSE’s Dr Abigail Collins has the following advice for families: “Given the current concern about RSV numbers, we all have a particular part to play in protecting new born and small babies who are most affected. The best way we can protect ourselves and our family members from RSV, common colds, and other winter viruses is to reduce the chance of infection and spread through:

    • staying at home if unwell

    • good respiratory etiquette (covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing) and

    • good hygiene practices.

    She also strongly encourages all parents of children aged 2 to 17 to get them the free nasal spray flu vaccine from their local GP or pharmacy.

    Learn about the flu vaccine for children at

    High temperature

    There is lots of great advice on how to look after yourself and your family when you’re sick or have a high temperature on and

    However, parents are advised to always contact their GP if they are worried, especially if a child’s symptoms get worse quickly or if the symptoms and fever persist despite the use of paracetamol and Ibuprofen.

    Know signs and symptoms and when to present to GP/Emergency Department: visit

    Broken Bones

    Broken bones, burns and scalds are common occurrences around Christmas, according to Emergency Department consultants. This is because of (falls related to) alcohol consumption and the risks associated with extra cooking at this time of year. Care is advised.