In the last 30 years it has been documented that Thanksgiving and the weekend that follows bring the largest annual amount of emergency room visits in the United States. While most professionals state there is no exact reason for this coincidence and most issues patients are facing are common issues, it is a phenomenon that patients and hospitals alike wish could be avoided.
The preparation and mass consumption of a rich variety of food can send people to the emergency room for minor issues such as a cut thumb while turkey carving. Moderate and Major ailments and emergencies can also occur including gastrointestinal pain, sugar consumption issues, heart attacks and many others.
Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says the emergency department at Vanderbilt sees more patients coming in with chest pain on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening than on other days. “Some people consuming massive amounts of food are not in good shape to begin with,” he says. Overeating at a meal also can be a risk for some, as an excess of salt can be dangerous for people with conditions like congestive heart failure, kidney disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. “We see the effects of overindulgence,” Slovis says. “If people have heart disease, it can cause heart attacks.”
Food preparation can result in emergency department visits. A common incident, according to Slovis, is people accidentally cutting their fingers and hands with a carving knife. Other times, people might get burned while trying to deep fry a turkey. The CDC cautions about proper care of food to avoid food-borne illnesses. The agency estimates that food-borne diseases each year cause roughly 1 in 6 Americans, or 48 million people, to get sick each year, hospitalizing 128,000 and killing 3,000. Bacterial contamination is high with any raw meat, says the American College of Emergency Physicians, and some food can make people sick if not heated properly or refrigerated afterward.
Members of the American College of Emergency Physicians say another common emergency department visit involves injuries from people playing football, or doing anything athletic, when they aren’t used to such activity.
The holidays also can bring about mental health issues in addition to physical ones. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 64% of people diagnosed with a mental illness report that the holidays make their conditions worse, increasing symptoms such as sadness, loss, fatigue and frustration.
And, of course, there are always issues with long distance driving. Nationwide, nearly 90 percent of holiday travelers this year will journey by car between Wednesday and Sunday. This represents the highest volume seen since 2007 and the third-highest since tracking by AAA began in 2000. Thanksgiving in recent years has been the deadliest holiday for road travelers. In 2012, 416 people died in traffic crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday, which is defined as lasting from Wednesday to Monday, according to the most recent available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of The majority of victims who died – 60 % were not wearing seat belts, and 42 % were killed in crashes involving a drunken driver.
Here are 5 ways for you and your loved ones to avoid that crowded ER Waiting Room and enjoy your quality time together:
- Know your dietary limits! Does your health require dietary guidelines that need to be followed? While we all want to give in to seasonal treats, some of us simply cannot afford to. Do not cheat on any restrictions your physician has provided you for your own health! If possible, let the host know in advance of your restrictions or bring food items within your approved diet.
- Know your physical limits! If you’re not an athletic individual or you don’t exercise on a regular basis, do not overextend yourself in any physical activities such as back yard football. If you’re hosting a Thanksgiving celebration at your home, be sure to offer less physical activities such as horseshoes or charades!
- Safe handling of food is a must! Without proper care in the preparation and handling of your holiday eats, your entire party could end up in the emergency room! Learn the important steps in food handling and preparation by visiting the CDC’s food safety webpage here: https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/groups/consumers.html
- Smart and Safe Driving is a must! Remember thousands of holiday travelers will be on the same freeways as you between November 23rd-27th this year (and every year that number increases). Many drivers will be tired from eating a big feast and family activities while others may be intoxicated after celebrating more than they are used to. We urge you not to drink and drive by having a designated driver, using a professional transportation service, or eating plenty to sober up after drinks. Avoid driving when you are extremely tired. History shows us that people are generally sleepy after a large Thanksgiving meal, so be sure to get proper rest before getting behind the wheel of a car. Unfortunately, not everyone will follow these important driving suggestions so be sure that you and all of your passengers wear your seatbelts!
- Remember your loved ones who are ill. Be sure to have foods available to supplement the dietary needs of your guests who have special needs. Labeling your foods is a great way to advise your guests what items they may need to avoid. But, don’t forget physical illness is not the only illness some people suffer. People with mental illness suffer in silence. So, be sure to take a moment to reach out to everyone you love and let them know they are in your thoughts. Sometimes, just a brief moment of showing you care to someone who feels alone makes an incredible impact on their day. Encourage those who are alone to celebrate with you. Just by opening your door and your heart you could save a life!