People are being warned to be extra careful this Christmas as hospitals begin to see a major influx of patients with preventable injuries.
Relaxing into the festive season can often lead to silly mistakes with dire consequences.
“We’re going to see a whole range of things these holidays,” St Vincent’s Hospital emergency department director Dr Paul Preisz told Yahoo News.
“Numbers go up quite a lot. It is a quiet time for the rest of the hospital but very busy for us.”
Dr Preisz said over the next six weeks the emergency department would be busy in the afternoons and then about 9pm each night.
“When we’re busy we are seeing 150 to 160 [people] a day,” he said.
“We have increased staffing to cope with that over the Christmas and New Year’s period.”
Dr Preisz said an evening spike in patients was usually due to people having a few too many drinks.
Drug and alcohol-fuelled violence
Dr Preisz said the number of patients with injuries relating to drugs and alcohol significantly increased over the Christmas break.
“People fall while having a good time, and ankle and wrist injuries and fractures are quite common,” he said.
“Especially with Christmas parties people can often have too much to drink.”
Dr Preisz said alcohol-fuelled violence was also more prevalent at Christmas time and expected to see young patients who have been assaulted while out drinking.
“We will see a lot of drunk people,” he said.
“We will probably see recreational drug use at various times over the next couple of weeks too. With people off work for a while there will be a lot more opportunity, so we will see some of that for sure.”
Dr Preisz said people needed to plan how they were going to get home from a night-out and stay hydrated.
“A little bit of water and less alcohol makes a difference, and if people are going to experiment with drugs do it in a safe environment,” he said.
Christmas present pain
Dr Preisz said skateboard injuries were common at Christmas time, often with older people taking their kids’ presents out for a test drive.
“They are harder than they look,” he said.
“We see people with a whole range of injuries doing things they’re not accustomed to.
“People fall off bikes and we see people with new things getting into trouble.
“There’ll be a lot of walking wounded and a great variety of strange things.”
Slip, slop, slap
Holidaymakers spending their time at the beach are warned to slip, slop, slap this festive season, with sunburn being a common medical issue this time of year.
Jeremy Rawlins, president of the Australian and New Zealand Burns Association (ANZBA), said a lot of tourists, especially those visiting from overseas, did not understand the intensity of the Australian sun.
“You get up to a dozen patients just in Western Australia every summer with really bad sunburn,” he told Yahoo News.
“If you give yourself such bad sunburn to get admitted then that is pretty bad.
“It’s totally preventable, slip, slop, slap. Sunburn is a bad one.”
Dr Rawlins said this time of year also saw a lot of patients presenting themselves to hospital with burns to the soles of their feet after walking on steaming cement or sand.
“It’s predominately in people with slightly impaired sensations like diabetics,” he said.
“People go out to get the newspaper and days later wonder why their feet are blistering.
“If you’ve got any sort of mobility or sensation problem put on a pair of thongs when you go to your letterbox.”
Road toll tragedy
Dr Preisz said the number of people travelling over the holidays could lead to catastrophic consequences.
“A lot of people are driving and doing things they don’t do through the year,” he said.
“Absolutely listen to advice, don’t be in a hurry.
“We are a trauma centre and going to see a lot in the next six to eight weeks.
“If people just take it a little bit easy, try not to overtake and be patient with fellow road users it makes a difference.
“You often hear terrible stories of a small series of bad decisions leading to catastrophe.”
Dr Preisz said tourists also often fell victim to the dangers of the roads.
“Tourists also looking the wrong way and stepping off the curb because they’re used to driving on the other side of the road is something we see a lot of as well,” he said.