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Tips to stay out of the ER this winter

Posted at 12:57 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 14:57:45-05

We’ve talked a lot about COVID-19 and its impact on our healthcare system. But did you know non-COVID related injuries and illnesses are up this winter when it comes to visits to the ER?

Dr. Marion Bishop, Emergency Medicine Specialist with Brigham City Community Hospital says, “Every winter we see a whole variety of things that we usually don’t see in the summer.”

Dr. Bishop says hospitals often see a sharp increase in accident-related injuries this time of year, from recreational activities or slips on the ice and snow.

“We also see a whole host of respiratory illness that we usually don’t see in the summer,” says Bishop. In children we see croup, RSV, influenza and bronchitis, and interesting enough, in winter we see more heart disease and heart attacks. Some of this is connected to COVID in ways we’re just beginning to understand.”

Dr. Jim Polo, Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says, “Believe it or not we do see an increase of heart attacks between the months of December through March.”

Dr. Polo says chest tightness or pain can indicate some sort of cardiac event - and the biggest culprit may be due in part to Mother Nature.

“It’s important to know that shoveling snow can be very strenuous. It’s important to warm up, stretch and take plenty of breaks."

When it comes to strokes, watch out for any sudden loss of sensation or speech, and immediately go to the ER if you or a loved one experiences this.

Both physicians agree that there are also many preventable emergency room visits.

“People tend to think, ‘Oh I’ve got this great SUV and I’m a good driver,' then they set out in a snowstorm. If they can delay travel by even an hour or two and give folks a chance to clear the road, they're much less likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident,” says Dr. Bishop

Dr. Bishop also says they see more cases of trauma related to car crashes, which are typically up 25 percent during the winter months.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is also a serious problem when it's cold outside. Dr. Polo recommends avoiding the use of generators, gas stoves or grills for the purpose of heating indoors. He says it’s also important to make sure you have good ventilation year-round.

“You also want to be very careful about sitting in an idling car, even if it’s in the garage and the garage happens to be open,” says Dr. Polo.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, weakness, dizziness, confusion and upset stomach. If you suspect this has happened to you or your loved ones, seek medical attention immediately.

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