Emergency rooms prepare for holiday crowds

With Thanksgiving and the holiday season under way, area emergency rooms are preparing for an influx of patients.

The holidays create the perfect storm of family, food and alcohol, which contribute to an increase in visits to the ER, doctors say. The fact that many health care clinics and local doctors’ offices are closed for the long weekend also sends more people scrambling for medical help.

Dr. Beth Mulcahy, the director of Kaiser San Francisco’s emergency room department since 1994, said they see an 11 percent increase in patients on a holiday. On Thanksgiving, she typically begins the day with cooking injuries, suturing a lot of fingers and treating burns, she said.

As the evening wears on, doctors begin to see more alcohol-related injuries, including a condition dubbed “holiday heart,” a fast irregular heartbeat associated with binge drinking, Mulcahy said.

“A lot of people are at home getting into trouble that otherwise they wouldn’t,” Mulcahy said.

Mulcahy also warned people to take caution when eating food that has sat out for a while, naming food poisoning as a common contributor to late-night holiday emergency room visits.

While there are plenty of food- and alcohol-related injuries, the stress of the holiday season can also be seen in increased domestic violence incidents and in an increased number of people seeking treatment for aches and pains brought on by depression, doctors said.

Moderation in food, alcohol and even family are encouraged, they added.

The elderly in particular need to watch their diet because once-stringent regulations are sometimes tossed out the window to indulge in holiday treats, said Dr. Beverly Cronnelly, the director of emergency services for Kaiser South San Francisco.

Cronnelly said facilities typically see an increase in congestive heart failure because low-salt diets are suddenly abandoned for roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.

<p>dsmith@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

An empty space where a Shared Spaces parklet once stood outside Aquitaine Wine Bistro on Church Street on Wednesday, June 23, 2021. The parklet was recently destroyed in a car crash. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Cars and parklets don’t mix: SF searches for solutions in wake of accidents

Andrew Fidelman got the call in the middle of the night from… Continue reading

Supervisor Dean Preston speaks about rent relief at a meeting of Faith in Action, a nonprofit serving low-income residents. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
How to apply for post-pandemic rent relief in San Francisco and California

Reyna Aguilar has amassed $20,000 in rent debt since losing her restaurant… Continue reading

Transit-only lanes on Mission Street have reduced travel times by 20 percent during the pandemic, transit officials say. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Pandemic experiments morph into long-term solutions for SF transit agency

The streets of San Francisco became real-time laboratories for The City’s public… Continue reading

NO CONNECTION TO SERVER:
Unable to connect to GPS server ‘blackpress.newsengin.com’
Debate reignites over San Francisco’s first public bank

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, momentum was building for San Francisco to… Continue reading

Owners of Levi’s Plaza on The Embarcadero say gas boilers on the property will be replaced by electric and solar sources in the next few years. (Shutterstock)
Big plans for clean power at Levi’s Plaza

Transition to net zero carbon in step with S.F.’s environmental goals

Most Read