Don’t let New Year’s Eve end with a trip to the emergency department.
New Year’s Eve brings tens of thousands of revelers to public celebrations and private parties all over the country.
Corey Slovis, MD, chair of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt, knows that some revelers will end up in Vanderbilt’s Emergency Department, as New Year’s Eve is usually one of the facility’s busiest times of the year. Alcohol-related injuries and deaths typically spike, 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,” Slovis said. “A celebration can quickly turn tragic when too much alcohol is involved.”
Many statistics and studies show the year’s highest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurs on New Year’s Day, a dangerous time for pedestrians, too.
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:
- Always have a designated driver. Make sure this person knows his or her role in advance so they won’t drink alcohol.
- If you’re drinking, leave your keys with someone so you won’t be tempted to drive.
- Have a clear plan to get children home safely if they’re likely to be present where alcohol is 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. Of course, for many people, far less than these quantities might be “too much.”
- Home remedies such as coffee or cold showers aren’t “cures” for intoxication. Time is the only thing that will sober up a person who has been drinking.
- Seek medical treatment for individuals who are unconscious, or exhibit slowed or irregular breathing, seizures, pale or blue-tinged skin or cold skin temperature.
- Always seek medical attention after a car accident. Many people suffer from injuries that may not be immediately apparent. If an individual cannot be awakened, turn him on his side to keep the airway open, request help and stay with him.
“Alcohol impairs your judgment,” Slovis said. “Think very carefully about placing yourself or others at risk.”
Story by Wayne Wood, assistant director and executive director of new media and electronic publications, in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s News and Communications department.
After staying safe on New Year’s eve, kick off your new year with successful resolutions.