Health: Keeping Father Christmas fit for duty

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Every year, as Christmas approaches, Santa Claus visits his local health centre for a check-up. We have had an exclusive look at his doctor's report.

may be good to talk - but it makes no difference who's listening, a new study shows. Jeremy Laurence reports.

Name: Mr S Claus, aka Father Christmas, St Nicholas, St Nick.

Age: approx 1,717 (born AD 280).

Marital status: single, but lives with numerous elves and several animal companions.

Nationality: originally from Asia Minor, now lives at North Pole.

Occupation: an early Christian bishop turned toy-deliverer. Also the patron saint of children and seafarers.

Comment: Mr Claus is in remarkably good shape for a man of his age. (He already exceeds the life expectancy of the average European by 1,648 years.) However, his large waist circumference and higher than recommended body mass make him vulnerable to heart disease and diabetes.

Recommendation: he should eat fewer mince pies (200 calories each) and consume at least five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables a day.

Comment: Mr Claus informs me that he prefers his sleigh to cruise at 10,000 metres to avoid bad weather and I am therefore concerned about his vulnerability to altitude sickness. I am also worried that, when he enters UK airspace, he might be mistakenly identified on radar as an intruder and shot down.

Recommendation: he should ensure that his sleigh keeps below 3,000 metres at all times. If he does go higher, he will need to carry oxygen. Having consulted the RAF on his behalf, I have advised him to file a flight plan prior to departure and install an identifying transponder. In any event, so long as he shows no hostile intent, I am assured he will be escorted safely into UK airspace.

Comment: the Met Office informs me that the temperature in Finnish Lapland at 6pm last Christmas Eve was -20C. In London, it was -1C and in Glasgow -2C. The patient is clearly at considerable risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

Recommendation: Warm clothing is essential. The British Mountaineering Council tells me he should wear six layers of clothing, including three inner layers of thermal insulation and an all-in-one down suit; three pairs of gloves; three pairs of socks and plastic boots; a tubular scarf; and a balaclava, hat and hood.

Comment: Mr Claus says he enjoys a glass of whisky in each house he visits.(There are over 7 million households with children in Britain alone.) While he feels the alcohol could help reduce his risk of heart disease, I consider the consumption of several million units of alcohol in one night makes severe intoxication inevitable and death a serious possibility.

Recommendation: The patient has been advised to have "none for the road" and, even when not driving, to limit his intake to four units a day. Given his obvious alcohol dependency, this will be a struggle but counselling is available. Mr Claus may wish to drink Coca-Cola instead but he should be aware that each 330ml can contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar.

Comment: Mr Claus's occupation carries considerable risks: exposure to soot in the chimneys through which he frequently descends can cause skin and lung cancers as well as ulcers on the corneal surface of the eye; climbing up and down roofs and chimneys presents obvious risks of falling; and back trouble could result from lifting a heavy sack of presents.

Recommendation: the Health and Safety Executive warns that work at a height exceeding two metres requires either scaffolding or firmly secured ladders. I have therefore advised Mr Claus to enter buildings only by the front door. (If he insists on using his traditional route, goggles, a face mask and hard hat will be essential.) Attendance at a training course on safe lifting techniques is also recommended.

Comment: on Christmas Eve, Mr Claus has to complete a heavy workload before a fixed deadline. Stress and fatigue are inevitable, increasing the risk of irritability, mood swings, errors and accidents.

Recommendation: the patient should tackle his stress by taking up meditation or yoga. The colour red can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure so he should consider changing his coat to a more relaxing blue. He should spread his workload over several nights or, better still, change to a daytime shift.

Comment: Mr Claus is required to work in close proximity to large numbers of children in air-conditioned shopping malls. This increases the likelihood of colds and flu.

Recommendation: given the patient's age, a flu vaccination is advisable. He should also increase his immunity by regular moderate exercise (this will also help him lose weight) and taking a vitamin supplement.

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