Nobody wants to spend the holidays in the emergency department (ED). Yet, every year, emergency departments are flooded with holiday-related illnesses, injuries and traumas.
Dr. Ryan Keay, ED Medical Director at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett says, “People come to the ED during the holidays for reasons ranging from trauma to mental health issues. Whatever the reason, we want you to be safe and avoid an unnecessary trip to the ED.”
Most Common Reasons for Holiday ED Visits
Falls are the top cause of holiday injury for patients of all ages. Our ED sees a 25 percent increase in the weeks following Thanksgiving. Whether it’s a fall from the roof while hanging lights or from a ladder decorating the tree, the results can be serious.
Ladder safety tips
- Have someone hold the ladder and spot you
- Make sure the ladder is on a firm, level surface
- Stay in the center of the rung you’re standing on
- Hold the side rails with both hands
- Position the ladder so you don’t have to lean or reach
Car accidents caused by speed, distracted driving, weather conditions and impaired driving bring patients to the ED all year long. But, during the holidays, we see an increase in injuries – and worse.
Auto safety tips
- Make sure adults wear a seat belt and kids are in an appropriate car/booster seats in the back seat
- Obey the speed limit, especially in bad weather
- Make your car a “no-phone-zone”
- Use a designated driver
Substance abuse: holiday parties, easy access to alcohol and drugs, social anxiety and pressure to “celebrate” mean some folks party too hard during the holidays. Our ED staff sees an increase in fatal and non-fatal injuries, violence and serious health problems like neurotoxicity, alcohol poisoning and overdose. “Your decisions affect not only you, but those around you and on the road – people you don’t even know,” says Dr. Keay.
Tips for staying in control
- Know your limits. Whether you choose one shot of hard liquor or one beer or one glass of wine, it takes your liver one hour to digest
- Don’t mix drugs and alcohol or alcohol and energy drinks
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach
- Keep medications out of reach of children
Mental health issues: For some, the holidays are anything but jolly. Many people are lonely, frightened and anxious during the holidays. Rates of depression and suicide attempts climb. Some seek relief from their pain at the ED. Some go simply for companionship.
Tips for keeping depression at bay
- Reach out to neighbors, friends and family
- Remember to get quality sleep, exercise, eat a balanced diet and maintain your routine of medications and/or counseling
- Avoid alcohol – it’s a depressant and can make mental health problems worse
General illness: During the holidays, EDs still see patients who are just plain sick with abdominal pain, respiratory illnesses and flu symptoms. Don’t wait until your illness is an emergency. Visit your primary care provider or the Providence Medical Group clinic in your neighborhood.
Protect little ones: If you have little ones visiting this holiday season, be sure to baby proof your house as best you can. And, keep an eye on them. Active and constant supervision will go a long way in keeping them safe.