Don’t Eat Yourself into the Hospital During the Holidays
By Tracey Gant and Erica Adkins
Howard University News Service
WASHINGTON – Washington is officially into the holiday season, just a few
weeks past Thanksgiving with Christmas and the New Year just around the corner.
It is a period synonymous with lots of food, family and fun.
All that “cheer,” however, has a tendency to land large numbers of people
in hospital. In fact, doctors and nurses at local hospitals say the days following
Christmas and other major holidays are thebusiest times of the year for their
Emergency Departments because across the region people overeat, over drink
and fail to pay attention to their diets.
Dr. Allen J. Taylor, chief of Cardiology at MedStar Georgetown University
Hospital, said that is certainly true at his hospital.
“Yes, I would definitely say the number of emergency hospital visits we receive
after the holidays are because people tend to not pay attention to their diets
during the holidays,” Taylor said. “Our emergency visits increases 25 percent
to 50 percent after the holidays because of this reason alone.”
The same is true at Howard University Hospital, said Dr. Fernando Daniels,
an attending physician in the Emergency Department.
“It’s a traditional period where people break their diets,” Daniels said.
“Patients can’t afford all the carbs, calories and salt found in typical holiday
Consequently, the hospital gets “all types of emergency visits during the
holidays,” said nurse Rosalyn Barney, a clinical coordinator in Howard’s Emergency
“We have hypertension patients or people who eat too much salt and patients
with high blood sugar who have hyperglycemia,” Barney said. “We have many patients
that miss their dialysis.”
It’s the same at Prince George County Medical Hospital, where Dr. Douglas
Mayo heads the Emergency Department.
“We see many cases of gastritis, pancreatitis and congestive heart failure
due to a high level of salt intake,” Mayo said. “We also see a lot of patients
who drank too much alcohol, which leads to hypertension and can increase your
risk ofhaving a heart attack or stroke.”
Dr. Bill Frohna, chair of Emergency Medicine at MedStar Washington Hospital,
said people get wrapped up in the enjoyment of the season and lose control.
“They are with family or friends, and they either can’t control themselves,
or they just throw their diets out the window and forget about it,” Frohna
According to the Howard University Hospital data, emergency visits there went
from 125 on Christmas Eve 2011 to 98 Christmas day and climbed to 161 the day
after Christmas 2011. The number of emergency visits at the hospital this year
during Thanksgiving went from 107 Thanksgiving Day to 142 the day after.
Taylor said he advises patients to do things in moderation during the holidays.
“Drinking alcohol during the holidays is fine, but over ingestion is not good,”
he said. “Don’t change your eating patterns. Try to stick to your normal foods.
Overall, patients should eat in moderation, be consistent with their diet,
and be aware of possible symptoms of heart attacks or chest pain.
Frohna said he tells patients to stay on their medication.
“They should take their medication as prescribed,” he said. “If you are low
on your medication, make sure you refill the bottle when approaching the holidays,
and they should watch their diet.
Barney offers similar advice.
“My advice is eat sensibly,” she said. “Don’t eat too many carbohydrates or
foods with too much sugar. They can also use sugar substitutes. It taste the
same but its just healthier for you. Patients should schedule their dialysis
earlier, like before the holidays, so they don’t have to come in during or
after the holidays.”