December 29, 2015

Vanderbilt emergency physician offers tips for a safe New Year’s 2016 celebration

champagne pour glasses
Champagne (Jenny Mandeville/Vanderbilt)

New Year’s Eve is expected to bring tens of thousands of revelers to downtown Nashville for the Bash on Broadway, and there will be thousands more at private parties and celebrations all over the region.

Corey Slovis, M.D., chair of Emergency Medicine at Vanderbilt, knows that some of those revelers will end up in Vanderbilt’s Emergency Department, since New Year’s Eve is usually one of the facility’s busiest times of the year. Alcohol-related injuries and deaths typically spike, causing physicians and staff to prepare for an influx of patients requiring help after overconsumption.

“We see a number of patients who consume too much alcohol on New Year’s Eve, putting themselves and others at risk,” Slovis said. “Your celebration can quickly turn tragic when too much alcohol is involved.”

Many statistics and studies show the years’ highest number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities occurs on New Year’s Day, and the period around New Year’s is also dangerous for pedestrians.

Although the worst injuries are typically associated with drunken driving, emergency departments also see injuries from falling while intoxicated, resulting in broken bones or head injuries. Alcohol overdoses are also common, particularly among those under the legal drinking age.

Slovis says many alcohol-related injuries are preventable and offers these tips before popping the cork:

  • Always have a designated driver. Make sure this person knows his or her role in advance so they won’t drink alcohol.
  • If you’re drinking, leave your keys with someone so you won’t be tempted to drive.
  • Have a clear plan to get children home safely if they’re likely to be around where alcohol is being served.
  • If you’re hosting a party, keep an eye on your friends. Don’t let them leave your residence intoxicated.
  • Know how much is too much. Typically, too much alcohol for men equals more than three drinks within the first hour, then more than one subsequent drink per hour. For women, too much is typically equal to two or three drinks within the first hour, followed by more than one drink per hour thereafter. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled liquor.
  • Home remedies such as coffee or cold showers aren’t “cures” for intoxication. Time is the only thing that will sober up a person who has been drinking.
  • Seek medical treatment for individuals who are unconscious, who exhibit slowed or irregular breathing, seizures, pale or blue-tinged skin or cold skin temperature.
  • Always seek medical attention after a car accident. Many people suffer from injuries that may not be immediately apparent. If you cannot awaken an individual, do not leave them except briefly to request help, and keep them on their side to keep the airway open.

“Alcohol impairs your judgment,” Slovis said. “Think very carefully about placing yourself or others at risk.”