Avoiding the emergency room during the holidays

Friday, December 21, 2018

By: Femi Cole

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year for many. That’s because the holiday season is right around the corner.


Amid the frenzy and excitement of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, it’s easy to take safety for granted. Injuries can happen. BayCare Clinic’s emergency medicine experts encourage you to be prepared at the most wonderful time of the year.


“The holidays can be challenging for emergency rooms. While people are busy hanging lights, decorating trees and traveling this time of year, they’re not always proactive about safety,” says Dr. Gemma Bornick, an emergency medicine physician with BayCare Clinic. She’s also medical director of Aurora BayCare Medical Center’s Emergency Department. “We see a lot of patients rushing to the ER during the holidays largely with preventable injuries.”


Bornick says emergency rooms often treat people over the holidays due to:


  • Falls. Many people, especially the elderly, risk slips or falls when it’s snowy or icy outside. Wear shoes with good traction, pay attention to where you’re walking and walk slowly. Be careful when shoveling and put down generous layers of salt or sand when sidewalks and steps get icy.
  • Excess food and drinks. People tend to consume more alcohol, salt and sugar than usual during the holidays. For people with health conditions such as diabetes, limit your intake of sugary treats. If you have a heart condition, limit the amount of salt you eat to help avoid complications.
  • Deep cuts. It’s easy to lose your grip on the big knife when carving your holiday turkey, ham or roast. Pay attention to what you’re doing, don’t cut toward yourself, make sure your knives are sharpened and don’t let children handle knives.
  • Poor planning. Holidays and shortened office hours can affect people’s doctor appointments and medical care. Get your prescriptions filled in advance and talk with your primary care physician before the holidays about any health concerns.
  • Increased stress. Holiday gatherings often bring people together in crowded rooms. Add to that alcohol or relatives and friends who may not get along well, and stress levels might rise.
  • Forgetting medications. Take your medications along when traveling over the holidays, even if it’s just a short trip. Have enough of your prescription medication to get through the holidays. Check that any medical equipment you need, like an inhaler, is working properly.
  • Choking hazards. Tree ornaments, light bulbs, small toys and batteries are common hazards for children. Buy age-appropriate toys, supervise children when they’re playing with battery-operated toys and avoid putting lights, ornaments and other decorations in places children can reach them.
  • Burns. From baking to festive candles to fireplaces, there’s an increased risk for burns during the holidays. To prevent burns, keep children out of the kitchen when cooking, wear oven mitts when handling hot food and stand away from the stove when deep frying or cooking with oils. Always keep a fire extinguisher close.
  • Holiday heart syndrome. Some people experience an irregular heartbeat pattern at this time of year. Holiday heart syndrome is caused by excessive consumption of alcohol. While it’s a temporary condition, some patients may need help from their doctor to get their heartbeat back to a normal rhythm.
  • Depression. For some people, the holidays are filled with sadness, anxiety or loneliness. In extreme cases, those feelings can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. If you’re feeling sad or depressed, seek help from a professional and stay connected with other people.

“Stay mindful of things in your home that could pose hazards,” Bornick says. “We want everyone to enjoy a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.”


Dr. Gemma Bornick sees patients in Green Bay, Oshkosh, and Two Rivers.

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BayCare Clinic,, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.