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  • Keep Your Holidays Safe; Tips From Our Chair Of Emergency Medicine Dr. Jack Kelly

    Published: 11/13/2012


    Scented candles. Christmas trees. Turkeys and hams hot from the oven. Not to mention liquid holiday spirits.

    T’is the season when visits to the Emergency Room at Einstein Healthcare Network and elsewhere spike with burns, falls, and “holiday heart,” an irregular, rapid pulse that can be brought on by overindulging in alcohol.

    Visits to the ER rise “in the ten days before the (Christmas) holiday and the ten days after,” said Jack Kelly, MD, Associate Chair of Einstein’s Department of Emergency Medicine and Medical Staff President. He has seen it all: the 75-year-old woman who stood on a chair to hang an indoor window wreath, and fell; the toddlers who eat poinsettia blooms; the grandmom hosting a family dinner whose aluminum pan buckled when she took a turkey out of the oven, pouring burning grease down her legs.

    As much as life has changed in the 18 years Kelly has been at Einstein, holiday mishaps have remained the same. “It’s been pretty steady,” said Kelly, because human nature hasn’t changed at all.

    All of us, for instance, are creatures of habit. So we stumble into trees or train sets or fall over a pile of gift-wrapped packages because they’re in our usual path. “There’s more clutter so there’s more opportunity to trip,” Dr. Kelly said.

    Then there are the candles. “Everybody loves candles, they add a warm light, a wonderful fragrance, a holiday feeling but underneath all that is the major dangers of fire, smoke inhalation and burns,” Kelly said. “If you’re going to light a candle, you must have fire extinguishers in the room to immediately put out a fire. Remember this is a wax fire; it’s very hard to put out and it burns much hotter and differently.” Overloaded electrical circuits also create a fire hazard.

    And what would a holiday be without drinking?

    Festivities can turn ugly when inhibition is drowned in drink and disagreements turn into arguments, fistfights or worse. Too much booze can also trigger atrial fibrillation, a rapid, irregular heartbeat that raises the risk of stroke – and requires immediate medical attention, Dr. Kelly said.

    Then there’s the food, the heavy turkeys and hams we sometimes cook in throw-away lightweight aluminum pans. “They may bend when you take them out of the oven and the hot drippings may drip onto legs or feet and create a major burn because it’s hot oil. It could create a second or third degree burn. You see that commonly around this time,” Kelly said.

    Here are Dr. Kelly’s tips for having a have a safe holiday season:

    • If you stand on something to hang decorations, make sure someone is with you in case you lose your balance.

    • Never leave candles burning when you leave the room, leave the house or go to sleep. Make sure you always have a fire extinguisher in the house.

    • Check electrical wires for fraying and make sure electrical circuits are adequate to handle holiday lights. Child-proof the outlets.

    • When cooking food with light-weight disposable aluminum pans, put the pan on a cookie sheet or double the pans so they don’t bend and drip hot liquids when you take them out of the oven.

    • Limit alcohol intake to avoid escalating family arguments, falls, burns from the oven, and “holiday heart.” If your heart is beating fast and irregularly, don’t postpone getting medical attention because the condition could precipitate a stroke.

    • Be extra vigilant so that children don’t ingest holiday decorations or put them in their ears and nose. But don’t panic if your child eats a poinsettia flower;it is not poisonous, despite beliefs to the contrary.

  • Communications Team