Black Friday has another claim to infamy, beyond the mad crush of shoppers hellbent on getting the best deals.
And that is the injuries — and emergency room visits — that result from the seasonal sprint.
“Slip and falls. People stepping on other people. Somebody falls and somebody steps on their hand,” said Dr. Cole Sondrup, medical director of the Emergency Department at Southern Hills Hospital, ticking off Black Friday shopping injuries that are treated in the ER.
Black Friday is usually one of the busiest days of the year in the ER, Sondrup said. He has seen Black Friday shoppers with soft-tissue injuries from falling as well as fractured hands and wrists and twisted and broken ankles.
Meanwhile, Thanksgiving’s claim to shame is that it’s the peak day for treating burns from cooking-related fires. So watch out for those deep fryers and stoves, warns the medical director of a Las Vegas burn center.
Black Friday injury and illness
Aside from the shopping injuries, Black Friday is especially busy because people delay seeking treatment on the holiday itself. Who, after all, wants to sit in an ER on Thanksgiving if they don’t absolutely have to?
“Thanksgiving day itself is not busy at all,” Sondrup said. “I personally think it’s because a lot of people avoid coming in on a holiday because it’s a holiday,” he said.
The ER also sees plenty of weekend warriors on Black Friday.
“For whatever reason, it’s tradition in the United States to not only watch American football but play American football on Thanksgiving,” Sondrup said. “For those of us who are a little bit older in age who haven’t played football since we were teenagers, often times we find ourselves getting injuries. It’s everything from orthopedic injuries to musculoskeletal injuries to simple contusions.”
Patients also will arrive in the ER after the holiday with symptoms triggered by eating, drinking and loafing, often in combination.
“When people sit around for 24 hours and do nothing but eat, heart conditions get worse,” he said.
Patients with congestive heart disease, for example, may experience flair-ups on the holiday from not taking their medication and from eating a lot of salty foods.
“Everybody takes their dietary restraint and they toss it for a day,” Sondrup said, which sometimes is “enough to really put some people in the hospital for a while.”
And people may drink too much over the holiday, resulting in gastritis, or inflammation of the stomach lining, or pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas.
“People who aren’t supposed to drink (because of an underlying condition) tend to drink a little bit over the holiday,” which can trigger flare-ups, he said.
The ER also sees illness stemming from food that sat out for too long on the holiday or was improperly prepared.
There are other holiday perils looming in the kitchen. Thanksgiving is the peak day for house fires related to cooking, which translates to a busy day in burn centers across the country, said Dr. Syed Saquib, medical director of the UMC Lions Burn Care Center.
In 2017, fire departments in the U.S. responded to an estimated 1,600 home cooking fires on Thanksgiving, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Unattended cooking was the leading contributing factor in cooking fires and fire deaths. Cooking equipment was involved in almost half of all of the reported home-fire injuries, and was a leading factor in home fire deaths.
“We discourage the use of deep fryers,” Saquib said, citing “serious fires from a deep fryer gone awry.”
If you are going to use a deep fryer over the holidays, Saquib and the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommend using it outdoors on a level surface and making sure the turkey is completely thawed. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, frozen turkeys can explode into fireballs when they’re put in a deep fryer without first being fully defrosted.
FEMA also warns that “turkey fryers can easily tip over spilling hot oil across a large area. Use your turkey fryer only outdoors on a sturdy, level surface well away from things that can burn. Make sure to have a ‘3-foot kid- and pet-free zone’ around your turkey fryer to protect against burn injuries.”
Saquib, a faculty member at the UNLV School of Medicine, had a few other tips that can apply not only to cooking over the holidays but anytime.
“Make sure that you don’t leave anything that you’re cooking unattended,” he said. “Make sure you keep the kids out of the kitchen when you’re actively cooking.”
He also advised against wearing loose-fitting clothing while cooking, since such garments can more easily catch on fire.
Saquib said he offered this guidance with the hope that over the holiday season, people don’t need to “seek out our services, as much as we’re happy to provide them.”