A healthy holiday is a happy holiday

Learn a lesson or two from some of the most common reasons people seek urgent or emergent care every year.
Dec. 2, 2015
a person on a ladder hanging lights up on a house
Photo: Getty Images.

Illness and injury can ruin an otherwise lovely holiday season. Nobody wants to end up in urgent care or the emergency room. So this year, the doctors and caregivers at UCHealth urge you to follow these tips and reminders to stay well and keep safe.

Prevent falls
“If you’re putting up Christmas lights, make sure the ladder is firmly standing on dry ground,” said Dr. Jamie Teumer, emergency medical director at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland. “Also, we recommend that people with certain medical conditions, such as those who take blood thinners, never be on a ladder or the roof. Falling can cause internal bleeding.” And if you’re on foot, stay off treacherous ice.

Get a flu shot
Flu shots don’t guarantee you won’t be spending the holidays in bed with aches and a fever, but they improve your odds, said Dr. Kelby Bethards, UCHealth’s urgent care medical director. “In my experience, people who get flu shots don’t get as sick if they do get the flu,” he added. “The vaccine seems to temper the illness.”

Don’t get burned
“Things that bubble when you’re cooking cause the worst burns,” Teumer said. “That’s because grease increases the penetration of the wounds.” He recommends silicone cooking mitts over cloth because they offer better protection.

Dress for the weather
Bethards said that anyone spending time outdoors in bitter cold needs a warm hat, gloves and boots. “We see frost nip on ears and toes,” he explained. “And sometimes, cold air can trigger asthma.”

Drive safely
Both holiday travel and increased shopping traffic up the risk of motor vehicle accidents, Teumer said. “Slow down, wear a seat belt — a helmet if you’re on a motorcycle — and don’t drive unless you’re completely sober,” he added.

Don’t overindulge
“Thanksgiving and Christmas will tell you how well your gallbladder is doing,” Teumer said. “If you’re having abdominal pain, you might well be overindulging in fatty, greasy or spicy foods.” Overdoing alcohol and drugs is the culprit behind many holiday injuries, Bethards said. “Don’t put up holiday lights, cook, drive or do anything remotely dangerous if you’re not sober,” he said. “We don’t want to have tragedies instead of holidays.”

Get help for emotional challenges
“Holidays can be hard on people, especially if you’ve had a loss,” Bethards said. Not only does depression tend to worsen, according to Teumer, but the risk of domestic violence and suicide also rise. “Communicate with your loved ones,” he advised. “Stay on top of any medication your doctor has prescribed for you.” “The holidays are a time of joy and happiness, but they can also be a time of sadness,” Bethards added. “People need to know that urgent care clinics and emergency rooms are places they can go to get help.”

Know where to go
If you do get sick or hurt, call your primary care provider or head to urgent care for minor problems, but go to the emergency room or call 911 for serious or life-threatening problems. Find a primary care, urgent care or emergency location based on the region you live in: Metro Denver area, Northern Colorado (Fort Collins, Loveland, Estes Park, Greeley, Longmont, Cheyenne), Southern Colorado (Colorado Springs area).

About the author

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. With 24,000 employees, UCHealth includes 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.