Jeff Erbert | 20 November, 2023
Healthcare and the Holidays
The holidays and hospital visits are a pairing as old as turkey and stuffing. Every year, thousands of Americans are taken to the Emergency Department (ED) on or around the holidays – with Thanksgiving kicking things off as one of the busiest ED days of the year.
In fact, the end-of-the-year holiday season is among the busiest seasons overall. On Thanksgiving in 2018 (well before the COVID-19 pandemic), hospitals saw a staggering 36,000 patients (about twice the seating capacity of Madison Square Garden) visit the ED nationwide.
Shortly thereafter, the holiday is followed by several other celebrations – including New Years Eve, which is second only to July 4th (not surprisingly, by far the busiest holiday of the year with about 45,000 visits in 2019) in terms of ED demand. It is critical that all hospital systems and departments are in proper working order and are operationally poised to handle the influx of patients.
Why Are the Holidays So Busy for EDs?
Though it may seem that impassioned political discourse, unsolicited relationship advice, and football excitement are enough to send someone to the Emergency Department, the main culprits include but are not limited to:
According to the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, your chance of ending up in a serious drunk driving accident is 77% higher on Thanksgiving than any other non-holiday. On New Years, that figure jumps to 116%.
Alcohol consumption also increases the likelihood of a slip-and-fall accident (especially if icy conditions are present), it could interact with medication, and could potentially play a role in a violent domestic dispute.
On Thanksgiving (and other holidays) Americans can consume anywhere from 3000-4500 calories in a day. This rapid sodium intake can pose a problem for those with underlying cardiac conditions and can cause people to suffer from heart failure. It can also exacerbate gallbladder disease, causing pain that lasts several hours, fever, and vomiting.
One National Institutes of Health (NIH) study concluded that people are 10-times more likely to get food stuck in their esophagus (not trachea therefore it is not considered choking) during the holidays. If the food cannot be cleared, a trip to the local ED may be warranted.
Americans typically purchase approximately 365 million pounds of turkey towards the end of November. As such, there’s a lot of cooking to be done.
Beyond the typical lacerations and burns from traditional meal preparation, deep frying turkey – if not done properly – can be exceptionally dangerous. Each year, about 900 homes are impacted by turkey-frying conflagrations.
Passenger vehicles are statistically the most dangerous way to travel, and Thanksgiving happens to be one of the busiest road travel days of the year. However, those traveling with an increased chance of blood clots are susceptible to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and/or pulmonary embolism – which requires immediate emergency medical care.
Many people who suffer from food allergies are on high alert, but that does not mean cross contamination, or an adverse reaction could not occur. The holidays are a time when food is shared, cookies containing nuts may be moved from one plate to another, and new dishes are tried. Those with known food allergies are at heightened risk of visiting the ED.