The holidays are meant to be a fun time of year to get together with families and friends to celebrate and make memories — but nothing creates a more memorable experience in a bad way like a health emergency. Not only are medical facilities likely dealing with reduced staff and seasonal hours, but a medical incident can be a frightening shock during an otherwise festive time.
There are a few common threads between incidents that bring people to the ER or hospital during the holidays, which means you can educate yourself and take the steps to prevent these occurrences. While some medical emergencies can’t be foreseen, others can definitely be prevented ahead of time.
Let’s take a look at four of the most common healthcare emergencies that happen around the holidays, and how you can keep them from intruding on your celebrations. If you do happen to find yourself in need of emergency services, the Tri-City Medical Center Emergency Department is open 24 hours every day of the year. You can even schedule your visit during certain hours via the website.
1. Gastrointestinal Problems
Nothing says it’s holiday time like a never-ending rotation of rich food, and it’s a time of year when we’re encouraged to indulge. However, there’s a ton of nutritional nastiness hiding in traditional holiday fare, especially elevated levels of sugar, saturated fats, and salt. That last one can be a particular doozy, especially for individuals with heart problems, as their bodies cannot process all the extra salt they’re consuming. As Consumer Report wisely notes: “If you have diabetes or a heart condition, remember that the rules of healthy living and the consequences of poor choices aren’t suspended for the season.”
Keep this in mind as you head to the holiday buffet, regardless of whether or not you have a health condition. Try to practice mindful eating, look for healthy swaps, and stick to the “everything in moderation” rule. Although the holidays may only come once per year, your gastrointestinal health is important all year long. (Also keep in mind general food safety rules. You can get food poisoning from dishes that have been left out at room temperature for too long; be familiar with the initial signs of the illness!)
2. Alcohol-Related Issues
As with holiday food, many people feel like they have free range to indulge in more than a few alcoholic drinks, even if they’re not typically big drinkers. Two major issues can arise out of this: firstly, too much alcohol can do a number on your internal system. If you’re imbibing too much at once, you could bring on alcohol poisoning, which will definitely require a trip to the ER. Know your limits, drink a glass of water between each alcoholic drink to pace yourself, or stick to low-alcohol cocktails.
Secondly, inebriation can lead to any number of careless accidents or injuries, with consequences leading from mild (taking a stumble on an icy sidewalk) to severe (driving drunk and causing a deadly crash). If you plan to drink, decide how you will get home (whether that’s a designated driver, a taxi, or a ridesharing service), and keep an eye on your party companions’ consumption as well.
3. Cooking Accidents
People tend to have many pots boiling in the kitchen, literally and figuratively, when it comes to cooking a holiday spread — but that can, unfortunately, increase the risk of injury. Whether it’s a forgotten hot stove element, a pot of water boiling over, or a dull knife that slips while cutting the turkey, there are a number of ways you or your loved ones can be hurt while in the kitchen.
The two biggest dangers to look out for are burns and cuts. Be careful around open flames or cooking grease, and don’t attempt to carve meat with tools you’re not used to using. Also, ensure that small children are aware of the “danger zones” in the kitchen, and always put away sharp knives or utensils when you’re not using them.
4. Decorating Injuries
If you’ve ever been out hanging Christmas lights on a cold evening, you know how easy it can be to potentially miss a rung on the ladder. Or perhaps it’s the glass bauble you accidentally stepped on with your bare feet. Cuts requiring stitches make up about 11% of holiday injuries, and back strains or pulled muscles account for about 10%.
Some keys to avoiding injury include putting up lights during the daytime for more visibility, being aware of your surroundings (watch out for that black ice!), and taking care to lift heavy things with your knees instead of your back.
The holidays should be a festive time for everyone, and nothing puts a damper on the celebration like an unforeseen trip to the hospital. That’s why it’s a smart move to be aware of your own tendencies to overindulge or overlook – there are definite consequences to say, eating or drinking too much, or not paying attention to what you’re doing in the kitchen or on the roof. Set an intention to be mindful and conscientious this holiday season, and you can truly enjoy spending time with friends and family.
Whether it’s a holiday emergency or a simple check-up to make sure you’re ready to celebrate at full health, be sure to choose a Tri-City Medical Center affiliated provider or our ED for any of your healthcare needs. We are committed to prioritizing our patients and making sure you receive the care and support you deserve.