This time of year, many people take breaks from work and try to get some rest and relaxation. But emergency room doctors and nurses in our area say it's one of their busiest seasons.
Dr. Geoffry Mount Varner, chief of Howard University Hospital's emergency department, says the most common condition he treats during the holidays is gastric distress, and he says leaving food out is often to blame.
"They bring the holiday food and they don't store it correctly, or the holiday party is postponed a few hours," says Varner.
Dr. Allen Taylor, chief of cardiology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, says changes in diet can also affect cardiac conditions. "Cured meats, soups, sauces, a lot of things that have a lot of hidden salt in them, and can trigger problems if patients have salt-sensitive conditions like high blood pressure."
Varner says hospitals actually tend to see an influx of patients the day after Christmas. "People who are sick will wait until after the holiday to come in, which means that they often present sicker than what they would have, which actually makes their morbidity and mortality go up."
Taylor says there is also an increase in heart attacks through the holiday season. He says changes in diet can exacerbate some heart conditions and prompt something called holiday heart syndrome. "[It] is a common heart arrhythmia that comes from excessive alcohol intake and particularly binge alcohol intake."
Doctors encourage moderation and urge patients not to delay if they begin showing signs of distress.