Christmas is around the corner, which means it’s the season for presents, family, and holiday cheer. However, it’s also the season for sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and running yourself ragged. While Santa’s elves up in the North Pole make their final preparations for the big night and wrap up all those last-minute gifts, we’re left wondering just how healthy Santa Claus is this time of year. Here are a few concerns Santa’s doc might take up with him at his annual checkup.
Ease up on the Christmas cookies. Let’s face it, Kris Kringle isn’t exactly in the best shape. He’s chubby and plump and has a big round belly that shakes like a bowlful of jelly. Santa doesn’t have to give up cookies completely to get his weight back on track, but eating them at every single house on Christmas Eve is overdoing it. After all, there are numerous health risks associated with obesity. Someone who is 40% overweight is twice as likely to die a premature death. Obesity has been linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, gout, and breathing problems such as sleep apnea and asthma. Santa does get some exercise lugging around a bag full of toys on Christmas Eve and hopping up and down chimneys all night, but he should find ways to stay active during the rest of the year as well. To help play a part in Santa’s new healthy lifestyle, leavehim a glass of water and a low-calorie snack instead of milk and cookies.
Red Cheeks and Nose
If you haven’t noticed, Santa Claus is plagued with constant rosy cheeks and a nose almost as red as Rudolph’s. So what’s the deal? There are a number of reasons that could be contributing to his rosy complexion, but the first and most obvious probably has to do with the fact that the guy lives up in the North Pole all year round, where the temperature can reach as low as -45°F in the winter. When the skin gets cold, surface blood vessels alternate between dilation and constriction as a way to avoid losing heat from the extremities, including the nose. This process causes the nose and cheeks to turn red. Or perhaps he has rosacea, which typically affects people with fair skin. Although there is no cure for rosacea and the cause is unknown, the condition is typically harmless. On the other hand, maybe St. Nick’s jolly red cheeks are just a reaction caused by too much mulled wine and eggnog. It’s called alcoholflush reaction and it is thought to be caused by the inability to metabolize alcohol because of the lack of the ALDH2 enzyme, which breaks down a toxic by-product of alcohol called acetaldehyde. When people are ALDH2 deficient, their skin turns red after drinking alcohol because there is an increased concentration of acetaldehyde in their body.
Going Down Chimneys
Another hazard that jeopardizes Santa Claus’ health comes from the amount of chimneys the big guy squeezes down on the night before Christmas. It’s anamazing feat, but all that contact with soot isn’t good for the body. In fact, if he doesn’t start using the front door, or at least wear better protection than a thin red jump suit, he can develop scrotal cancer like the chimney sweepers of England in the 1700s. In 1775, English surgeon Percivall Pott discovered that there was a link between the cancer and a prolonged exposure to soot. Another study conducted in Sweden showed that those with a long career as a chimney sweep had more cases of various types of cancer and leukemia than the general public. Santa might want to be more careful sneaking inthrough the smoke pipe considering he gallivants up and down more chimneys in one night than a sweeper does in their entire career. To be extra safe, make sure your chimney gets an annual check to avoid unnecessary soot buildup.
Driving a Sleigh All Night
It’s a wonder how Santa Claus manages to stop at every child’s home in the entire world to drop off a Christmas present, but there’s no doubt that the old man has to pull an all-nighter to do it. Even with Rudolph leading Santa’s team of reindeer, driving a sleigh with little to no sleep can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Driving while tired slows down reaction time, decreases awareness, impairs judgment, and increases the risk of crashing. Santa might want to swap coffee and an energy drink for a full night of sleep and enlist help delivering all those presents, or there’s a good possibility that he will crash his sleigh, or worse, accidentally deliver the wrong present to the wrong child.
His Cheerful Demeanor
While Santa’s doctor wouldn’t condone most of his bad holiday habits, one thing for certain is that St. Nick’s jolly personality helps keep the stress of fulfilling the children of the world’s dreams at bay. Whether it’s a healthy relationship with Mrs. Claus or too much debauchery with the elves in his workshop, Santa clearly enjoys what he does. Studies have proven that having a sense of peace, fulfillment, and purpose leads to a healthier and longer life.
- Alcohol flush reaction (Asian flush syndrome). Alcohol Flush Reaction Info Web site. http://alcoholflushreactioninfo.com/.
- Altork T. Why does my nose get red when it’s cold? eHow Web site.http://www.ehow.com/facts_7263401_nose-red-it_s-cold_.html.
- Bleeker J. Occupational diseases. National Chimney Sweep Guild Web site.http://www.ncsg.org/chimney_sweeps/occupational_diseases.aspx.
- Does being happy make you healthy? Good Web site. February 2, 2010.http://www.good.is/posts/does-being-happy-make-you-healthy.
- Drowsy driving facts. Drowsy Driving Web site. http://drowsydriving.org/about/.
- How humans deal with and survive extreme cold. Cool Antarctica Web site. http://www.coolantarctica.com/Antarctica%20fact%20file/science/cold_humans.htm.
- Sleep experts warn Santa Claus of health risks of flying all night. Science Daily Web site. December 16, 2010. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101215083402.htm.
- Weight loss: health risks associated with obesity. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/cholesterol-management/obesity-health-risks.