Avoid winter emergencies
An ER doctor gives advice about staying injury-free this holiday season.
Johnny Woodhouse Published: 12/13/2019
Remember the scene in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold (actor Chevy Chase) turns on his faulty wired outdoor Christmas lights and accidentally causes a city-wide power outage? Yeah, that only happens in the movies.
But during another scene in the hit 1989 comedy, the actor actually broke one of his fingers while demolishing a Santa sled in his fictional front lawn.
Unwanted injuries are often part and parcel of the holiday season, according to Kate Barrier, MD, medical director of the new Baptist/Wolfson Children’s Emergency Center at Oakleaf.
Ways to avoid unwanted injuries during the holidays include:
- Not mixing alcohol and prescription drugs
- Being extra careful when handling kitchen cutlery
- Maintaining a balanced diet and exercise routine
- Always having someone hold the ladder you are standing on
“We see quite a lot of traumatic and non-traumatic injuries this time of year,” said Dr. Barrier, a board-certified emergency medicine physician with Emergency Resources Group. “Last year, I saw multiple injuries from people taking their new hoverboards out for a spin while not wearing pads or a helmet.”
Also known as self-balancing scooters, motorized hoverboards have sent thousands of kids under 18 to the emergency room (ER) in recent years, according to a 2018 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A recent study published in the American Academy of Emergency Medicine said pediatric patients are more at risk for hoverboard-related injuries than adults and almost 6% of ED visits involved critical injuries.
Fractures of the wrist, forearm and head account for about 40% of all hoverboard-related injuries, the study said, followed by contusions, sprains and strains. Other traumatic injuries typically seen in the ER during the holidays:
- Falls (ladders/slip and fall)
- Burns (in particular from turkey fryer oil)
- Lacerations (cooking/mandoline slicers)
- Power tool-related injuries
“And, certainly, motor vehicle accidents reach a peak during the holidays because more people are on the road more, and traveling to and from parties where alcohol is served,” Dr. Barrier added. “Alcohol poisoning is definitely something we see in the ER around the holidays. Mental health-related visits, including depression, also increase during this time of the year.
“On the non-traumatic side, we certainly experience a spike in respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia and bronchitis, that can result in admissions to the hospital. Increased sugar and salt in holiday foods can also worsen hypertension and congestive heart failure emergencies.”
ERs tend to see an influx of patients the day after Christmas, sometimes because people tend to delay medical treatment until after the holidays.
“We certainly encourage people to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the holidays,” said Dr. Barrier, “but we also want them to maintain their medical routines, including taking all their medicines and not ignoring any symptoms of illness.”