The Most Common Holiday ER Visits – And How to Avoid Them

An oldie but a goodie: this post was originally published on 12/24/2015.

For many people, the holidays are a joyous and festive time to spend with family and loved ones. However, even with all of the warm holiday wishes and holiday cheer of the season, this time of year can also be an accident waiting to happen. During the holiday season, emergency rooms across the U.S. see an increase in visits due to holiday-related injuries and illnesses. Read on to learn about some of the most common holiday injuries and how you can avoid them.

What dangers are lurking in your holiday plans?

Decorating Injuries

Make sure that decking your halls doesn’t land you with an injury! Every year, thousands of people end up in the emergency room due to decorating injuries. In 2012 alone, 15,000 people sustained holiday decoration-related injuries requiring ER treatment according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Many of these injuries involve falling from ladders while hanging lights or decorating the Christmas tree. To avoid a fall, use caution while decorating and follow these ladder-safety guidelines:

  • Have someone hold the ladder and spot you
  • Make sure the ladder is on a firm, level surface
  • Stay in the center of the rung you’re standing on
  • Hold the side rails with both hands
  • Position the ladder so you don’t have to lean or reach

Don’t let this turn into a holiday injury – practice ladder safety!

Cooking and Carving Injuries

With the holiday season comes lots of time in the kitchen. But beware – there are hidden dangers in cooking and serving holiday favorites! For example, emergency room visits for finger and hand lacerations spike during the holidays due to the misuse of knives and carving utensils. Be sure you are comfortable with the carving tools you are using and remember – don’t drink and carve!

Deep frying turkey is a popular and dangerous holiday tradition. If the bird is wet or not totally thawed, it can catch on fire or even explode. Also, splashed grease can cause anything from burns on the arms to singed eyebrows if you aren’t careful. To avoid injury, be sure that the bird is fresh or completely thawed, and be careful to raise and lower it slowly to avoid splashing hot grease. Emergency rooms also see a lot of burns on the tops of the feet during the holidays. This injury occurs when cooks and kitchen helpers drop unusually heavy dishes onto their feet out of the oven.

Keep your turkey delicious, not dangerous.

When Good Food Goes Bad

Although delicious holiday dishes are a wonderful part of the season, please be aware of what you are eating. Anaphylactic shock is a very common reason for ER visits during the holidays. Make sure that your hosts and your family know what your dietary restrictions are before they serve you, and remember: if anything looks suspect, it’s better to be safe than to be sorry!

Food poisoning is another common complaint in ERs around the holidays. To avoid this unfortunate addition to your holiday plans, use a meat thermometer to avoid undercooking your turkey or other holiday dish. Also, if serving your food buffet style, make an effort to keep dishes at the appropriate temperatures, using warmers or ice buckets.

“Holiday Heart” is another common complaint during this time of year (as the name suggests). This is a term doctors have coined to reference the atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) that can be caused by the overindulging that so often occurs during the holidays. Overeating and overdrinking can cause a surge of epinephrine or norepinephrine, which can cause irregular heart palpitations in a structurally normal heart. Normally, hydration will fix this holiday malady.

Substance Abuse

It’s no surprise that with all of the holiday parties, social pressure to celebrate, and easy access to alcohol during this time of year it isn’t difficult to accidentally party too hard. Emergency rooms see an increased number of visits due to alcohol poisonings and improperly used prescription drugs during this season. To avoid this common holiday catastrophe, follow these drug and alcohol safety tips:

  • Always have a designated driver or use a taxi service to get home
  • Keep prescription drugs put away and out of reach of children.
  • Keep an eye on young children and minors at holiday get-togethers where alcohol is present to ensure they don’t accidentally (or purposefully) drink the wrong punch
  • Know your limits and stick to them
  • Stay hydrated.

Stress and anxiety

Spending time with large numbers of family members, the extra social engagements, and preparations for the holiday season can make anybody feel a little stressed. Rates of depression, panic attacks, and anxiety climb during the holiday season. To combat the holiday blues or stress of the season, be sure to get enough sleep, schedule time to relax, and maintain a somewhat balanced diet and exercise routine. If you are feeling very overwhelmed don’t be scared to reach out to family, friends, and/or a mental health professional to get the help that you need.




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