Tips to Avoid the ER this Holiday Season

Avoid a trip to the emergency department this holiday season with these helpful tips: 

Be careful if you need to retrieve or return decorations on high shelves, packed closets or attics with low ceilings. Watch for exposed nails, wires or places where footing may be uneven.

Dress for the cold. Be prepared for rain, snow, wind and low temperatures. Hypothermia, dehydration or frostbite are more likely to occur the longer you stay outside. Early signs of frostbite include numbness or burning, or cold skin that turns hard and pale. Falling is the leading cause of injury among seniors. Slow down to avoid slipping or falling in snow, ice or wet conditions.

“Winter months are busy in the emergency department,” said Vidor Friedman, MD, FACEP, past president of ACEP. “Unfortunately, a lot of patients we see have avoidable injuries this time of year. But, no matter what, emergency physicians will be ready, 24 hours a day even during holidays, to make sure you are safe if you, a friend or loved one has a health emergency.”

If you are decorating outside, follow commonsense safety procedures when hanging lights or lifting heavy boxes. If you must go on the roof, review safe ladder usage tips and use the “buddy system.” Use indoor lights inside, and outdoor lights outside. Interior cords are not meant to endure snow, rain or other wet weather conditions. Falls and back injuries are common reasons patients end up in the ER this time of year.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are about 15,000 annual injuries from Christmas decorating. Inside, be mindful of small lights or decorations getting too close to the mouths of small children or pets. Keep candles or hot lights away from fire hazards, such as curtains. Turn off indoor and outdoor lights, and blow out candles, before you go to sleep at night.

As the weather gets worse, you’ll probably be spending more time inside. It’s the perfect reason to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Normal cough or cold is likely more appropriate for urgent or primary care, but if your respiratory illness comes with complications or you have trouble breathing, you may need emergency medical attention.

Enjoy the moment, slowly. Overeating is common and too much salt, sugar or cholesterol can complicate existing health conditions like diabetes. Eat slowly and chew carefully to avoid choking. And, limit your alcohol intake.

“Holiday heart,” is what emergency physicians call the cardiac issues that are more common during the winter months. Mental health plays an important role in your physical well-being, too. Emergency visits associated with depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges tend to spike around the holidays.

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