Sliced fingers from carving the Christmas ham, eye injuries from glitter, falls from erecting Christmas decorations, over-indulgence in alcohol and rich food, heart attacks, car accidents and drowning are some of the wide range of Christmas ordeals that can lead to the hospital emergency department.
“The Christmas holiday season is the busiest time of the year in Australian hospital emergency departments, yet we can all learn how to prevent unnecessary deaths, especially from heart attack and cardiac arrest,” says emergency medicine expert and Chair of the NSW branch of the Australian Resuscitation Council, Associate Professor Paul Middleton.
“We see an increase of accident and emergency admission of around 9% in hospital emergency departments during the summer holiday period with this increasing dramatically over Christmas and New Year. While some of these can be explained by GPs closing over this time, most of the visits are due the increased likelihood of accident, injury and heart attack at this time of the year,” says Professor Middleton.
“Christmas Day and New Year have a significant association with increased deaths, particularly from heart attack. This has been documented in medical journals for years,” says Professor Middleton.
“It’s not uncommon for people having a heart attack to think they’re suffering from ‘indigestion’ perhaps from eating too much, but chest pain with no obvious cause has to be taken seriously, because it may quite possibly be a heart attack, when the blood supply to the heart is blocked off.”
Cardiac arrest, when the heart actually stops beating, is most commonly caused by a heart attack.
“Being treated for a heart attack in hospital has an average 83% chance of survival compared with a survival rate of less than 10% for out of hospital cardiac arrests.”
“Ambulance arrive remarkably quickly in Australia, but if the heart stops a person has less than four minutes to live unless the person near them starts immediate CPR, and no ambulance can arrive that fast.”
“Tell tale signs of a heart attack include pain or heaviness in the centre of the chest, which comes on for no known reason and doesn’t go away when resting. Other symptoms can include the pain spreading to arms, neck or back, shortness of breath, sweating and feeling sick. If someone collapses and is not responsive and have stopped breathing, they are having a cardiac arrest.”
People suffering cardiac arrest have the best chance of survival if they receive immediate CPR. But so many people in the community are afraid they don’t know how to do it because are fearful of further harming the victim. “The truth is that if someone collapses and is not breathing, they are or soon will be dead, so worrying about hurting them should come a long way behind trying to save their lives,” says Professor Middleton.
“If we remember two simple but important steps we can save their lives. Firstly, call 000 and secondly, start immediate, continuous and effective hands-only CPR, pushing hard and fast about twice a second in the centre of the chest. Keep this up until the paramedics arrive”, says Professor Middleton.
“Don’t be afraid of getting involved and performing hands-only CPR; any CPR is better than no CPR.”