Alcohol-related injuries and deaths typically spike on New Year’s Eve, causing physicians and staff to prepare for an influx of patients requiring help after overconsumption.
“We see a number of patients who consume too much alcohol on New Year’s Eve, putting themselves and others at risk,” said Corey Slovis, M.D., chairman of Emergency Medicine. “Your celebration can quickly turn tragic when too much alcohol is involved.”
According to a recent analysis of the past decade, conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the years’ highest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurs on New Year’s Day.
Also a holiday equally perilous for those traveling on foot, don’t plan to walk home, as statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that New Year’s Day is also the deadliest day for pedestrians.
Although the worst injuries are typically associated with drunken driving, emergency departments also see injuries from falling while intoxicated, resulting in broken bones or head injuries. Alcohol overdoses are also common, particularly among those under the legal drinking age.
Slovis says many alcohol-related injuries are preventable and offers these tips before popping the cork:
• Always have a designated driver. Make sure this person knows his or her role in advance so they won’t drink alcohol.
• Leave your keys with someone so you won’t be tempted to drive while under the influence of alcohol.
• Have a clear plan to get children home safely if they’re likely to be around where alcohol is being served.
• If you’re hosting a party, keep an eye on your friends. Don’t let them leave your residence intoxicated.
• Know how much is too much. Typically, too much alcohol for men equals more than three drinks within the first hour, then more than one subsequent drink per hour. For women, too much is typically equal to two or three drinks within the first hour, followed by more than one drink per hour thereafter. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled liquor.
• Home remedies such as coffee or cold showers aren’t “cures” for intoxication. Time is the only thing that will sober a person.
“Alcohol impairs your judgment,” Slovis said. “Think very carefully about placing yourself or others at risk.”
Seek medical treatment for individuals who are unconscious, who exhibit slowed or irregular breathing, seizures, pale or blue-tinged skin or cold skin temperature. Further, always seek medical attention after a car accident. Many people suffer from injuries that may not be immediately apparent. If you cannot awaken an individual, do not leave them to request help.
Vanderbilt’s award-winning Adult Emergency Department sees more than 55,000 patients each year. Its Level 1 Trauma Center serves a catchment area of 65,000 square miles and has been rated in the top 5 percent of emergency departments in the country by HealthGrades, receiving the HealthGrades Emergency Medicine Excellence Award in 2010 and 2011.
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