The Most Common Hospital Presentations Over Christmas


Published: 08 December 2020

The Christmas holidays should be a happy opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Unfortunately, there is the potential for the 'silly season' to result in hospitalisations for many Australians.

As a nurse, you may wonder what the most common hospital presentations are over the holiday season in Australia.

As most people begin to relax in anticipation of the holidays, staff in hospital trauma units prepare for a spike in work. Why? Because between November and January, there is a 25% increase in trauma presentations.

Furthermore, roughly 30% of road fatalities for the year occur during the holiday season and on Christmas day alone. There is also a 50% increase in ambulance attendances for alcohol intoxication (Jamieson and Hendel 2018).

Below is a list of common hospital presentations over the Christmas period:

Mental Health

Unfortunately for some, Christmas holidays are not something to look forward to. Many Australians may find themselves alone at this time of year and feelings of loneliness and abandonment can be exacerbated. This leads to hospitalisations for depression and self-harm.


Over the summertime, there are frequent instances of traumatic hospitalisations as a result of incidents relating to recreational activities such as dirt-biking, swimming in pools and water-skiing.

Man water skiing | Image

Heat-Related Illness

Read: Hyperthermia and Heatstroke: Caring for Older Adults in Summer

This is more common amongst older Australians and people with chronic health conditions.

Elderly man tired and sweaty | Image

Cardiac Issues

Deaths from cardiac issues reportedly increase by 5% over the holiday period, with the greatest occurrence on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. Kelly (2015) suggests that the stress and over-eating connected to the public holidays may worsen cardiac conditions.

Family sharing a meal | Image

Alcohol-Related Illness and Injuries

December is the most demanding time for emergency services to care for alcohol intoxication and assaults.

As Jamieson and Hendel (2018) point out, the increase of alcohol-related ambulance attendances doubles over Christmas. Alcohol featured in the top 10 most common presentations in the Alfred Hospital's emergency department over the holiday season, as did drugs (both legal and illicit) (Alfred Health 2017).

Glasses of champagne | Image

Bites from Snakes, Spiders and Insects

QLD Health (2017) refers to summer as being the spider season due to the increase in calls for help regarding spider bites.

Refer to the following links for more information about poison, bites, and stings:

Image of a snake

Some other considerations over Christmas and the summer holidays:

  • New toys might pose safety hazards for children.
  • Glow sticks contain the chemical dibutyl phthalate, which can cause irritation and stinging on contact with skin (if the glow stick is punctured, leaks or is opened (note that if it gets in the eyes it can cause severe irritation).
  • Food poisoning risk is greater in warmer weather. Correct food safety and handling practices significantly reduce the risk of food poisoning. WHO has documents regarding food safety on their website.
  • Christmas puddings with coins in them can be dangerous as they pose risks from choking, swallowing or inhalation. Avoid putting coins in foods or drinks, and be careful with coins in general.

(Kelly 2015; QLD Health 2017)



Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CDE, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her Master of Healthcare Leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing. She has transitioned from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in the acute/hospital setting to education management and primary healthcare. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her research proposal for her PhD involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is a Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) and primarily works in the academic role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. She is working towards her PhD. See Educator Profile