We're worried about you. From your rosy red cheeks to your legendary girth to
your all-night sleigh ride around the world, you may be at risk for diseases,
maladies, mishaps, and lawsuits that send chills through our Santa-loving
The latest warning comes from the National Rosacea Society in Barrington,
Illinois. Dermatologist Dr. Jerome Litt says you have "a clear-cut case of
rosacea," a skin condition that also affects millions of Americans,
particularly at middle age. Unable to examine you personally, the good doctor
based his finding on a well-circulated report that your "cheeks were like
roses, (your) nose like a cherry." Sadly, many observers conclude that
red-skin condition comes from hitting the Christmas-punch bowl a little too hard.
Sadder still, rosacea can be aggravated by holiday stress, hot chocolate and
overexertion ... all things you may encounter this time of year.
The one bright note in Dr. Litt's message is that certain antibiotics can help,
and he advises you to see a North Pole dermatologist. But the news about your
facial tint is only our latest source of concern. A careful examination of what
we know about you and your lifestyle raises a host of other trouble signs.
OBESITY: Frankly, Santa, this may be your biggest area of concern. Studies show
overweight men have more than double the normal risk of heart attacks and
increased chances of many other diseases. We've seen the pictures; we've
noticed you in the malls. And we've heard that your tummy shakes "like a
bowlful of jelly" when you chuckle. On this, we'll take part of the blame.
All these years, we've set out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. With 102
million homes in the U.S. alone, even if 1 in 100 homes put out two cookies and
a cup of milk, that would make an overnight snack of 2,000,000 cookies and
63,750 gallons of milk. Maybe it's time for Mrs. Claus to get you a NordicTrack
or a Thighmaster. But be sure to consult a physician before beginning any
PIPE SMOKING: You've been pictured with a pipe, and even though an apologist in
The New York Times once claimed it's only a prop, a witness who encountered you
in his home said "the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."
According to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, pipe and cigar smokers
have twice a nonsmoker's risk for lung cancer, four times the risk for larynx
cancer, and two to three times the risk for cancers of the mouth and esophagus.
Even if the pipe's just a prop, it might be a good idea to lose it. Remember,
you're not just a saint; you're a role model.
STRESS: Dealing with Christmas wishes from millions of kiddies could certainly
put one on the emotional hot seat. And anxiety can surpass even smoking as a
risk for certain heart problems. On this point, though, we have some good news:
A medical news service says laughter -- as evidenced by your trademark
"Ho, ho, ho" -- is one of the best stress-busters going.
SOOT: We admire your ability to slip up and down the average chimney, an
opening about 12 inches by 16 inches. But creosote flakes on the chimney walls
are toxic and can lead to respiratory problems. Brent Rigby of Emerald City
Chimney Sweeps in Kirkland (WA) said his people never actually go into a
chimney, and they wear protective masks when they reach up through the fireplace
to vacuum the soot.
RSI (REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURY): Cards and letters by the bagful arrive on your
doorstep through regular mail, but this year we've noticed you're also
receiving, and answering, e-mail on at least four Internet addresses. We
applaud your move on to the information superhighway, with this caution: Too
much keyboard work can result in painful injuries to the hands, wrists and
DEER MITES: Close, continuous contact with your trusty reindeer means if they
get mites, so might you, says Dr. David DuClos, a veterinary dermatologist in
Lynnwood (WA). Watch out for itchy rashes, and keep the deer out of your bed.
FROSTBITE, HYPOTHERMIA: You usually bundle up, and that's good. A Weather
Service satellite recently showed the temperature at the North Pole was 13
below zero, and high winds are common. Exposure to such conditions can cause
frostbite in minutes.
MALL THUGS: You spend a lot of time in shopping malls, so you already know
things are getting a little tough out there. Try not to walk back to your
sleigh at night alone.
MEMORY TROUBLE: It's been said that you make a list, then check it twice. Just
being careful, or are you developing a little memory problem?
SAD (SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER): This time of year, there is virtually no
daylight at the North Pole, and a lack of sunlight can trigger depression in
some people. Maybe a full-spectrum light would help keep you jolly.
VIRAL INFECTIONS: A young witness saw you kissing Mommy underneath the
mistletoe last night. You know this is cold and flu season, don't you?
JET LAG: Fatigue, dizziness, and insomnia are all dangers that travelers face
when they cross through several times zones. And few travelers cross all 24 of
them in one night, like you do.
SLEIGH ACCIDENTS: We've seen plenty of pictures of you in that sleigh, but
never with a seat belt, and we'd sure hate to see you get hurt. By the way,
when you cruise through metropolitan areas, be sure to cover the load. You
wouldn't want to have an accident that would boost your insurance rates, would
Which reminds us: You DO have insurance, don't you?