The holiday season may bring festive cheers, but as hospitals know, it can also lead to an increase in emergency visits.
Winter is one of the roughest months to handle and Jennersville Hospital is no different and the staff fluctuates to match the anticipated volumes throughout the season.
Of course, the winter weather in Pennsylvania brings the expected snow and ice, which causes havoc on the roadways.
'Over the weekend because of the weather, there were several motor vehicle accidents that resulted in pretty severe traumas,' said Alex Fernandez, M.D., medical director of the Department of Emergency Services at Jennersville Hospital. '
The weather also causes family physicians to have to close their offices, leading people to have to turn to the emergency room.
This is also the prime time for the flu to run rampant and Jennersville Hospital has already seen a handful of cases come in with it.
'From what I understand and looking at the charts, none of them were vaccinated this year for flu,' Fernandez said. 'The vaccination is not 100 percent – it doesn't mean you'll never get the flu – but it does protect you significantly depending on the type of influenza strain that's very predominant during the season.'
What may not be so well-known is the problem the holidays can cause on someone with pre-existing cardiac problems, such as congestive heart failure.
'A lot of times, it has to do with dietary indiscretions,' Fernandez said. 'There are more parties, more get-togethers and a lot of times, they have things in their diet, such as salt, that can actually exacerbate their existing conditions.
Patients with congestive heart failure tend to retain a lot of fluid. The heart is a pump. It's not pumping efficiently, which is really the problem with congestive heart failure, it can back up. That fluid backs up and goes into the lungs and causes shortness of breath.'
Though the indiscretions are the most common issue seen, it's not the only one Jennersville Hospital deals with when it comes to the pre-existing conditions.
'Often times [they're in the emergency room] because folks are either noncompliant with their medications, have dietary indiscretions and also we see a lot of patients over the holidays who are not from the area,' Fernandez said. 'They are visiting their family and they may have forgotten their medications at home.'
Even a dramatic climate change can become the culprit.
'Sometimes you have folks who come from a very warm climate and come to a very cold climate and they aren't really acclimated to it so they can actually have some difficulty with preexisting conditions,' Fernandez said.'
However, some of these visits can be avoided with some tips to remember over the holidays.
'Keep close contact with your physician or cardiologist,' he said. 'Make sure you are keeping up with them as far as follow-up appointments. When patients tend to think they are doing well on their medication and haven't had symptoms, they'll skip appointments. Keep up with your prescriptions, see your family doctor or cardiologists and biding by the very specific dietary restrictions given to you by your doctor as well.'