Thanksgiving is a time when families gather to reconnect, enjoy a great meal and watch some football. As experienced ED physicians know, it’s also the prime time for holiday-inspired injuries and illnesses. Whether it’s your first Thanksgiving shift or yet another in a long line of them, here’s a quick look at what’s likely to head your way this holiday:

Little Activity Early

Early in the day, you’ll likely see minimal crowding in your waiting room as most folks are lounging around, watching the big game, and waiting for the turkey button to pop.

But as the day -- and meal prep -- progresses, expect to see an influx of cooking- and carving-related injuries. According to Clinical Advisor, a website for NPs and PAs, Thanksgiving dinner preparation is a leading cause of ED visits at this time of year. After all, knives are sharp, and they don't discriminate between the bird's thigh or the meal preparer's finger.

Also high on the list of common ailments in the ED on Turkey Day: burns, usually resulting from handling a hot pan without proper protection, hitting the oven’s interior parts with a bare arm or flammable dishcloth, or sauces boiling over.


Obviously, overindulgence can lead to heartburn, indigestion, vomiting, or other conditions that, while not life-threatening, can prompt panicked patients to flood your ED. As usual, your triage team should remain on its toes; perhaps that indigestion case in the waiting room is actually a chronic Crohn's Disease sufferer with an intestinal blockage.


Less common but nevertheless present here and there: cases of overexertion from a post-meal family football game or other activity have been known to spark heart attacks -- especially for those who might not be in the best of physical health.

Alcohol Consumption

Another common encounter physicians face on Thanksgiving is alcohol poisoning -- or injuries that occur simply because a patient drank too much.

An ED physician in Detroit shared this wise (yet tongue-in-cheek) advice: "People need to minimize their alcohol consumption. But if they don't, stay away from relatives and carving knives."

Domestic Violence

As far too many ED providers know, a time when families gather to express their thanks can, in some instances, lead to serious altercations (again, alcohol is often a culprit). According to multiple news sites and city police department reports, including this article from The Atlantic, Police departments across the country often report a rise in domestic violence during the holidays, and Thanksgiving is no exception.

Traffic Accidents

The most prevalent ED encounter during the holidays? Injuries that result from traffic accidents, many of which are caused by drivers who’ve taken in a bit too much alcohol during family events.

Thanksgiving is reported to be one of the most dangerous times of the year for automobile crashes. According to the National Safety Council, in 2015, an estimated 433 traffic fatalities occurred during Thanksgiving, and another 52,300 people suffered a serious injury.

The Morning After

No matter what shift you’re pulling on Thanksgiving day, there is one issue you’ll likely be able to leave for tomorrow’s team: food poisoning. The tell-tale signs of vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, and headache typically appear 12 to 36 hours after the patient has eaten -- perhaps one reason to be grateful you worked on Thanksgiving rather than Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving from Schumacher Clinical Partners. Whether you’re in the ED or at home this Thanksgiving, we hope your holiday is a pleasant one!