Westmead Hospital emergency department (ED) staff specialist Dr Kavita Varshney has urged the community to stay healthy – and out of hospital – this holiday season.
“Our emergency department is always prepared and ready to treat people, but our Christmas wish is for everyone to be aware and safe,” Dr Varshney said.
“While people may not want to disrupt their celebrations it’s important for people to attend the ED in the event of an emergency, particularly if they are having chest or abdominal pains.
“If people experience any sign of weakness, speech disturbance, dizziness or chest pain behind the ribs, they should come to the ED immediately.”
In an effort to prevent unnecessary hospital visits, Dr Varshney has revealed the top five reasons for people presenting to Westmead ED
- Chest or abdominal pain
Some of the factors which can lead to chest pain or a heart attack can be prevented by pacing out your day and being organised and prepared.
“Some people travel long distances and can be in a rush – plan your travel time to reduce any unnecessary stress,” Dr Varshney said.
“Hot and humid weather can also contribute to exhaustion and cause shortness of breath, so we encourage people to stay hydrated, minimise physical exertion and remain indoors during the hottest periods of the day.
“Go easy on your lunch and enjoy any alcoholic beverages in moderation. Many people feel tired after eating their Christmas feast – allow your food to digest and have a rest before resuming your Christmas activities.
“It’s important not to ignore any chest, abdominal pain or indigestion that doesn’t go away. This may be heart related and not just indigestion.”
“During this time we treat many people who have fallen in their homes or at outings. One in three people over the age of 65 have a fall in their lifetime and it’s often the result of a loss of muscle mass and strength, which affects balance and mobility,” Dr Varshney said.
“We also have a lot of people climbing ladders to do some home renovation or decoration. Please be very careful and if possible allow a younger adult to do this, but not if they have been drinking.
“Look out for your older relatives, particularly when they’re standing up after being seated for a long time or navigating an unfamiliar environment.”
- Headache and alcohol related presentations
“Alcohol-related incidents can lead to injuries, particularly in middle-aged and elderly people,” Dr Varshney said.
“Surprisingly, it’s people in this age group who end up in hospital most frequently, usually due to alcohol-related car accidents, slips and falls.
“Hangovers, headaches and migraines are very common at this time of year with people consuming alcohol, which combined with the humid weather can make you dehydrated.
“Make sure you stick to no more than three standard drinks, eat in moderation and drink plenty of water.”
- Renal colic
“Renal colic is a common ED presentation that causes severe pain to the urinary tract including your kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra, often due to a kidney stone blockage,” Dr Varshney said.
“The symptoms include pain along the side of your body between your ribs, hip or lower abdomen, and can spread to your back or groin and cause nausea or vomiting.
“This illness can affect anyone and is often triggered by dehydration.
“Simple painkillers can be taken but you will need to visit your local hospital for treatment.”
- Mental health
“Christmas can be a lonely time for some people, and for anyone it can cause stress, trigger depression and increase the risk of self-harm,” Dr Varshney said.
“Doing something as simple as checking on your neighbours, family and friends who may be alone this Christmas, and including them in your festivities can make a huge difference.
“I also encourage people to look after their own mental health by staying physically and socially active, such as volunteering and exercising.”
Support is available:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 for 24/7 mental health advice and information
- Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 for 24/7 mental health advice and information
- Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 for 24/7 health advice and information
- In an emergency, contact emergency services on 000.
The community is reminded that emergency departments are for emergencies only.