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Avoid The ER This Holiday Season

Make sure your holiday season is merry and bright and not spent in an emergency room.

The holiday season often is the busiest time for hospital emergency rooms. Last year at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, more than 7,650 patients sought treatment at the ER during the holiday season.

Here’s how to avoid the emergency room this holiday season:

1.     Know when a trip to the ER is really necessary. Many health issues that arise during the holidays are not medical emergencies. Those that should be treated immediately include chest pain, stroke symptoms (numbness on one side of the body, face, arm or leg; trouble walking, speaking and seeing in one or both eyes), excessive, uncontrolled bleeding and difficulty breathing. Severe stomach pain that is accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing up or vomiting blood, dizziness or fainting and vision changes should also be treated immediately in the ER.

2.     Seek treatment at urgent care or walk-in clinics when appropriate. Anything from sprained ankles and fractures to sore throats and ear infections, cuts and falls can be treated at an urgent care or walk-in clinic, which is often open later than family doctors’ offices. Familiarize yourself with the local urgent care clinics in your area before an accident or health event occurs. Seeking treatment at one of these facilities for non-emergency medical issues can save families significant time and money.

3.     Be proactive about your health. Seeing a family doctor regularly can save families hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run and can prevent you or a loved one from ending up in the ER unnecessarily. Regular visits with a family doctor also increase chances of early detection should a medical issue present itself. Be sure to get cholesterol and blood pressure checked and share any family history of medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer with your doctor.

4.     Beware the common holiday mishaps. Look out for things in your home that could prove hazardous during the holidays such as open fireplaces, electrical issues, poisonous plants like mistletoe and holly berries or areas that put guests at risk for falls. In addition to fires and falls, car accidents due to weather and alcohol consumption are common reasons hospital emergency rooms see more patients during the holiday.

Not only can the wait times be longer at the ER during the holidays, but many hospitals across the country are implementing screening processes to determine which patients have true medical emergencies in an effort to reduce overcrowding in the ER. Those who are not emergent but wish to receive care at the ER will be required to pay a fee before services are provided.

Piedmont Atlanta recognizes ER visits can be expensive and often frustrating for families. Use these tips to keep your family safe and healthy during the holiday season. For more information on emergency services at Piedmont Atlanta, visit piedmont.org.

-Courtesy of Piedmont Hospital

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