‘Tis the season to be jolly…and careful. Emergency room visits spike during the holiday season as some injuries are more common that time of year.
Thanksgiving probably sends the most people to the ER, Dr. Jim Getzinger, physician at the Beaumont Health Emergency Center in Royal Oak, Michigan, says. The culprit is a combination of factors — a lot of drinks, unusually high food intake, an extended weekend, and it still being the sports season. Trying to show off your football skills after drinking sometimes may end up with running into a wall, he noted.
ER doctors are unanimous in blaming alcohol for most hospital visits during the holiday season. Drinking and driving is too common. It makes people vulnerable and irrational. “There is nothing more heartbreaking to an ER doctor or an EMS than to see a fatal crash involving multiple families when that happens on holidays,” says Dr. Douglas Kupas, ER physician at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. “Sometimes the victims are not even the people who have been drinking.”
The activities that cause the most injuries and send people to the ER between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, especially if combined with alcohol, are driving and cooking.
Sudden changes in eating habits are the worst culprit when it comes to people visiting the ER, while alcohol is No. 1 in terms of severity of the injuries, Dr. Jeffery Metzger, chief of emergency medicine services at Parkland Health & Hospital System, explained. It’s a lot more common for people to die from an alcohol-related injury; abdominal and chest pain as a result of eating too many bad foods is usually treated, he added.
Hospital visits on the day of the actual holiday are relatively uncommon, ER doctors say. The busiest times are the day after Christmas and the two days after Thanksgiving, mostly due to dietary indiscretions, Cristopher Amanti, medical director of the emergency department at Boston Medical Center, said.
“We sit around with staff all day because we don’t have many patients during the day,” Kupas said. It picks up in the evening after people start going home. It gets especially busy if there is a local football game on, he noted. “As soon as the game is over, the flood gates open.”
To compile a list of the most common injuries during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, 24/7 Wall St. talked to several ER doctors who shared their experiences. The following, in no particular order, are some of the most common holiday injuries.