STOCKBRIDGE — The holidays can be a busy time for hospital emergency rooms. Last year at Piedmont Henry Hospital, more than 11,000 patients sought treatment at the ER during the holiday season.

Here are some tips to avoid the emergency room this year:

♦ Know when a trip to the ER is really necessary. Most health issues that arise during the holidays are not medical emergencies. Health issues that should be treated immediately include chest pain, stroke symptoms (numbness on one side of the body, face, arm or leg; trouble walking, speaking and seeing in one or both eyes), excessive, uncontrolled bleeding and difficulty breathing. Severe stomach pain that is accompanied by other symptoms such as coughing up or vomiting blood, dizziness or fainting and vision changes should also be treated immediately in the ER.

♦ Seek treatment at urgent care or walk-in clinics when appropriate. Anything from sprained ankles and fractures to sore throats and ear infections, cuts and falls can be treated at an urgent care or walk-in clinic, which is often open later than family doctors’ offices. Familiarize yourself with the local urgent care clinics, or Piedmont QuickCare at Walgreens locations, in your area before an accident or health event occurs. Seeking treatment at one of these facilities for non-emergency medical issues can save families significant time and money. Scheduling on-line at one of these facilities also adds to the convenience and decreases the amount of wait time.

♦ Use Piedmont On Call app for low-acuity, urgent healthcare needs. With a quick download of the Piedmont On Call application via smart phone or tablet, patients can be seen by a Board-certified physician from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the week for $100 per virtual visit. This should not replace regular visits with your primary care physician, but is a convenient way to diagnose common family illnesses and treat minor wounds without having to leave home or work.

♦ Be proactive about your health. Seeing a family doctor regularly can save families hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run and can prevent you or a loved one from ending up in the ER unnecessarily. Regular visits with a family doctor also increase chances of early detection should a medical issue present itself. Be sure to get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked and share any family history of medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer with your doctor.

♦ Beware the common holiday mishaps. Look out for things in your home that could prove hazardous during the holidays such as open fireplaces, electrical issues, poisonous plants like mistletoe and holly berries or areas that put guests at risk for falls. In addition to fires and falls, car accidents due to weather and alcohol consumption are common reasons hospital emergency rooms see more patients during the holidays.

“Our highly qualified physicians, nurses, and staff members are ready to treat any emergency and get you back home for your holiday celebrations,” said William Watkins, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Piedmont Henry Hospital.

For more information on emergency services at Piedmont Henry, visit piedmont.org.

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