Here’s a little secret many hospital and emergency room workers already know: Believe it or not, in a number of ways, the holiday season tends to be hazardous to your health.
“We frequently see lacerations and burns from cooking mishaps and we also see many fractures and injuries from falls due to decorating,” said Trisha Anest, MD, MPH, FACEP, and medical director in the emergency department at Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital. “And if it snows, we see injuries and illness from people over-exerting themselves in snow clean-up efforts.”
The hospital routinely gets patients with those unexpected injuries. Things like broken bones and injuries from falls from ladders, rooftops, and attics, as people go about their annual holiday decorating.
“I recommend not climbing up ladders or heights alone, and always follow the safety instructions on the equipment you are using. Always use appropriate safety equipment and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance from friends and family if your health does not permit you to do some of the decorating you were able to do in the past,” she said.
In addition to making decorating safer, Anest said it’s also a great opportunity for communities to support each other and to get to know neighbors by helping those that need additional assistance.
But injuries from decorating or cooking aren’t the only things that can ruin a holiday.
“As we gather with family and friends, we often share more than love and gifts. We share our germs, too,” she said. “Good hand washing goes a long way to prevent the spread of illness.”
The hospital sees an increase in patients with vomiting and diarrhea around the holidays, and that can not only spoil a family gathering, but can ruin a holiday as well.
Another common mistake that brings people to the hospital around the holidays is the negative impact all of that activity can have on those typical daily activities.
“The holidays may mean a break from your normal routine, but it is not a good time to break from your normal medications,” Anest said. “Make sure to bring your medications with you if you are traveling and set reminders for yourself so you don’t forget to take them as you’re enjoying the holiday.”
She said they see a spike in visits to the emergency department the day after major holidays, often because of forgetting to take important daily medications.
Anest also recommended the seasonal flu shot prior to the holiday gatherings, and reminded everyone to not drink and drive.