Published on November 24, 2021

Medical Director of Ozarks Healthcare’s Emergency Department shares Sources of Common Holiday Trauma and Safety Tips 

While the holidays looked slightly different last year, many are planning to resume normal traditions and celebrations this season. Pandemic or not, emergency rooms across the nation usually see a spike of trauma during the holidays each year.

From his years of emergency medical experience, Dr. Curtis Horstman, Medical Director of Ozarks Healthcare’s Emergency Department, is no stranger to holiday health emergencies. According to Horstman, children especially can become hospital patients quickly from incidents related to cooking and choking hazards.

“Cooking injuries are most common for kids,” Horstman said. “Normally, we see many who find cords or pot handles to pull down hot liquids, boiling water, soups, and sauces that can cause burns and injuries. We also see a lot of kids who swallow small objects found in items you have in your house during the holidays, including electronics or décor with small sharp objects, magnets, and watch-style batteries. These are objects that are fairly easy to swallow and the kind of things we have to go after and retrieve.”

Thankfully, many of the common health emergencies seen around the holidays and trips to the Emergency Department can be preventable with some forethought and care.

“There are typically a lot of holiday distractions happening in households where we see children with cooking burns,” Horstman said. “Paying attention to make sure sources of heat are out of reach and not leaving children unattended can be simple solutions. If burns occur, remove the heat source from the burn area, and run cool, running water over the burn. When leaving to seek emergency care, take an old t-shirt or sheet and dampen with lukewarm water before draping it over the burn and leaving the house.”

For adults, falls and drug or alcohol overuse tend to increase during the holidays.

“Usually slips and falls with cold weather and sometimes icy conditions can send people to the Emergency Department if they are out and about more,” Horstman said. “If there is loss of consciousness, vomiting, or if you are on a blood thinning medication and fall, you should be checked out right away, even if you think you may be okay.”

Other health emergencies that affect all ages include electrical accidents due to overloaded outlets or power strips, which can cause electrocution issues. Adults and children also sometimes suffer allergic reactions from allergies that become evident when they choose to decorate with live Christmas trees. Horstman also explained a condition that is increasingly causing more of a need for emergency care across all ages during the holidays: psychological trauma.

“We see a lot of psychological-related issues around the holidays,” Horstman said. “It’s been picking up through the entire pandemic. When someone is struggling in an environment and surroundings that seem extra cheerful, it can exacerbate his or her struggle. Last year, we noticed more psychological cases, and I think we will continue to see it again with the pandemic still ongoing.”

Due to its lengthy presence, COVID-19 protection is not expected to be at the forefront of minds this year. Ozarks Healthcare has started to see an increase in hospitalizations and cases in its service area over the past few weeks. While getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and following precautions such as diligent handwashing and masking when appropriate are the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible if COVID-19 infection is suspected, Horstman said.

“We have already seen a noticeable uptick in cases,” Horstman said. “As people travel back home from college or travel around, it is going to increase the potential for a surge. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, it’s important to get diagnosed early, especially if you have risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, or a compromised immune system.”

When COVID-19 is detected early, monoclonal antibodies may be an option for some individuals, which can prevent the virus’s progression and even hospitalization.

“Our health system has performed an incredible amount of monoclonal antibody infusions through the pandemic, just slightly fewer than some large hospitals in more urban areas,” Horstman said. “Monoclonal antibodies can make a big difference in hospitalizations.”

Those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or suspect they could have the virus are asked to first call Ozarks Healthcare’s COVID-19 hotline at 417-505-7120 before visiting an Ozarks Healthcare clinic to be seen or tested. Symptoms of the prevalent Delta variant of COVID-19 include headache, runny nose, and sore throat. This is not an all-inclusive list. Other symptoms include a mild cough or shortness of breath.

Regardless of the health condition, individuals who may be injured or ill and think they may need emergency care are asked to not delay seeking medical attention during the holiday season.

“We are still seeing a lot of people who have put off care needs during the pandemic,” Horstman said. “This can lead to developing complications from conditions that could have been treated sooner. Sometimes, this can contribute to a high hospitalization census.”

With its state-of-the-art cardiac monitoring system, large and private trauma rooms, expanded waiting areas, and its Level II Stroke Center certification, Ozarks Healthcare’s Emergency Department is designed to comfortably treat more than 20,000 patients who seek care from Ozarks Healthcare's Emergency Department each year. Ozarks Healthcare’s Emergency Department is located at 1100 Kentucky Ave. in West Plains.

Should you need care this holiday season, Ozarks Healthcare’s Emergency Department remains open on a 24/7 basis. If you or a loved one is experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 immediately. For more information, visit

Ozarks Healthcare is a system of care encompassing primary care and specialty clinics, along with complete rehabilitation, behavioral healthcare, and home health services. While the 114-bed acute care hospital cares for more than 5,400 admissions, the entire health system has more than 364,000 patient visits annually in South Central Missouri and Northern Arkansas. For more information about Ozarks Healthcare, visit

 Dr. Curtis Horstman

Dr. Curtis Horstman, Medical Director of Ozarks Healthcare’s Emergency Department


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