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Top 5 Thanksgiving Health Threats

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Top 5 Thanksgiving Health Threats

Nov 26, 2013

Unless you’re a turkey, Thanksgiving might seem like a harmless holiday. But if you’re not careful, you might just carve out a visit to the ER this year. Emergency room physician Dr. Troy Madsen lists the top 5 things that he sees in the ER over the holiday weekend and why he thinks the Monday after Thanksgiving is the worst day to work in the ER.

Episode Transcript

Woman: Interesting, informative and all in the name of better health. This is The Scope Health Sciences Radio.

Interviewer: Thanksgiving seems like a pretty harmless holiday, but actually you might end up carving out a visit to the ER this Thanksgiving in ways you've probably never thought of before. We're with Dr. Troy Madsen, emergency department at University of Utah hospital. It's time for the top five Thanksgiving ER visits. Number one.

Dr. Troy Madsen: Number one is heart failure. So what happens at Thanksgiving, you know, you get together with family and friends and you just don't want to think about your health issues. It's just a time, it's like let's just forget I have these problems and, you know, you're eating a lot of salty food and for people that maybe have a little heart failure, means they retain a lot of fluid. Lots of salt equals lots of fluid, those with heart failure just get fluid overloaded, can't breathe and come to the ER.

Interviewer: So really, one meal could do that to somebody.

Dr. Troy Madsen: A really big meal, sure. Yeah, let's think about Thanksgiving though, we're not just eating one meal, we may call it one meal but people are snacking on stuff, maybe watching the football game and then they eat and then there's some pie and they're eating leftovers, so we're talking about a lot of salty food over a 12 hour period and that can do some damage.

Interviewer: Top five reasons somebody might go to the ER on Thanksgiving, number two.

Dr. Troy Madsen: Diabetic issues, again related to the food, there may be some issues there. You know I think people with diabetes, most people are really on the ball, taking care of things there, but again I think a lot of people kind of just want to forget about things for a day or so, now they're again with family and friends.

Interviewer: Yeah, and it's just like what's one day. What harm could one day do?

Dr. Troy Madsen: Exactly, and you know, they're eating a lot of carbs; carbs are sugars. These raise their blood sugar up, they can have some diabetic issues, even very severe diabetic emergencies.

Interviewer: All right, top five Thanksgiving ER visit reasons, number three.

Dr. Troy Madsen: So number three is Turkey Bowl injuries.

Interviewer: Oh, Turkey Bowl.

Dr. Troy Madsen: So you get together with family and you got these young kids out there and some teenagers and then you get the old guys out there trying to just show these young guys how to play football, and we inevitably see at least a handful of Turkey Bowl injuries on Thanksgiving. People, maybe they just twisted an ankle, or maybe they fell down and broke a forearm, they may have overestimated their athletic ability and they run into problems because of it.

Interviewer: Wow, all right, number four.

Dr. Troy Madsen: So number four is driving issues. People driving long distances and I think the biggest thing here is everyone, you know, you want to be with your family on Thanksgiving, so people, you know, they may not have a lot of time off work, they get off Wednesday night, they think, I've got to be there by Thursday, maybe they're living a ways away, maybe it's 6 hours, 10 hours, 12 hours, who knows, but they're driving long distances, often late at night, often very drowsy and often in very poor weather.
And sometimes it's the worst, you know, the first real snowstorm we've had of the year, or icy roads and they run into problems. So you just have to be aware of that if you're traveling.

Interviewer: All right and the top five Thanksgiving reasons you might visit the ER number five.

Dr. Troy Madsen: So last is food stuck in the esophagus.

Interviewer: That seems almost kind of cliche really.

Dr. Troy Madsen: It does, it does, but it does happen. It certainly happens all year but we see it around Thanksgiving too. People who are just trying to eat too much, they aren't chewing their food up, especially with meat. You get that piece of meat in there, it gets stuck in the esophagus, you have to come to the ER and get it taken out.
We have to call the G.I. doctors in, so I'm sure our G.I. doctors are not thrilled when Thanksgiving rolls around, but that's not a place you want to be with a big old piece of food stuck in our throat and having to come to the ER for that.
And so, you know you think about these top five reasons people come to the ER and then there's the thing that just compounds all of this. We've got a four day weekend here, it starts off with Thanksgiving, people are overeating, they're running into issues there and then there's Black Friday. So they don't want to go in the ER because it's Black Friday.

Interviewer: How are you going to get the deals?

Dr. Troy Madsen: Yeah, exactly, and then it's the weekend, who wants to go to the ER on the weekend, so I'll tell you, the absolute worst day to work in the ER isn't Thanksgiving, it's the Monday after Thanksgiving, and I was so happy this year to look at the schedule and see I was not scheduled then because Monday is a disaster and that's when a lot of these things really start rolling in the ER, all the consequences of Thanksgiving and of the weekend following.

Man: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, University of Utah Health Sciences Radio.