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5 Common ER Visit in the Fall

September 30, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this story:

As the seasons change and temperatures begin to drop, you may find yourself getting under the weather, and sometimes accidents do happen.

Beena Mathaikutty, M.D., MPH, director of the Emergency Department at Pascack Valley Medical Center, offers five of the most common reasons that people visit the emergency room during the fall season.

Respiratory Illnesses

Upper respiratory diseases, colds and seasonal flu, oh my! Flu season is right around the corner, and typically lasts from October to May. With lingering COVID-19 variants, it’s even more important this year to get your flu shot. Avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands, and continue following the latest mask guidance.

Flu season can be especially challenging for children in school or daycare. This fall—and into the winter—be mindful of their hygiene habits to prevent them from bringing germs and viruses back home. “Take the time to teach them to stay safe and healthy by washing hands and covering their mouths when coughing and sneezing. These preventative measures will help keep the whole family healthy,” Dr. Mathaikutty says.

Injuries From Household Chores

What seem like simple household chores can potentially cause you injury. “A lot of people will prepare for the fall by raking leaves, doing yard work or preparing their homes for the winter,” Dr. Mathaikutty says. “It’s essential to take caution with bending and heavy lifting as to avoid back spasms, sciatica or arthritis exacerbations.” If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath while doing yard work, or during any other exertion, you should seek medical evaluation immediately.

Seasonal Allergies and Asthma Exacerbation

Approximately 24 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, while about 25 million live with asthma. With the change in seasons, most people find themselves increasingly indoors, where things like dust and pet dander can aggravate the symptoms of these conditions. Dr. Mathaikutty says to be sure to continue taking any medication you have been prescribed to manage your symptoms. In addition, control indoor allergens by changing air filters often, vacuuming regularly and considering an air-purification device.

Pain and Wounds From Outdoor Activities

Slips and falls are one of the top reasons that send people to the emergency room year-round. Take extra steps to avoid letting your fun fall festivities turn into a trip to the hospital. “People will be hiking and apple or pumpkin picking, so it’s ideal to wear the right gear to avoid falls, strains and sprains,” Dr. Mathaikutty says. And if the weather is chilly, be sure you have on warm enough clothing.

Burns, Smoke Inhalation and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

To stay warm when temperatures drop, many people invest in space heaters for their home or gas-powered/kerosene heaters for their outdoor activities. Be careful when you are using these types of devices. If not used properly, heaters can cause burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. They can also potentially lead to fires, which can result in a life-threatening situation. As a part of your fall and winter home prep, install and maintain your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Taking Extra Care

Dr. Mathaikutty notes that during the fall and winter, the elderly typically do not go out as often. “Be sure you are checking in on your elderly loved ones for their well-being during this time,” she says. “Many people also feel isolated or have seasonal affective disorder in the fall or winter, so checking in with your own mental health and seeking help if you need it is always important, too.”

She says there is usually a decrease in physical activity in the fall and winter months, which can contribute to weight gain and a health decline. “It is important to find other ways of staying active like exercising indoors and eating healthier,” she recommends.

Next Steps & Resources:

Meet our source: Beena Mathaikutty, M.D., MPH. To make an appointment with a doctor near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.

If you need medical attention, seek help at the Pascack Valley Emergency Department

What to expect in the emergency room

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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