The Most Common Hospital Presentations Over Christmas


Published: 17 December 2019

Cover image for article: The Most Common Hospital Presentations Over Christmas

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 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.

Heat-Related Illness

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

Cardiac Issues

Deaths from cardiac issues reportedly increase by 5% over the holiday period, with 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.

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 ten most common presentations in the Alfred Hospital's emergency department over the holiday season, as did drugs (both legal and illicit) (Alfred Health 2017).

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:

Some other considerations over Christmas and summer holidays:

  • New toys pose safety hazards for children (Kelly 2015).
  • Glow sticks contain the chemical dibutyl phthalate which can cause irritation and stinging on contact with skin (when the glow stick is punctured, leaks or is opened (note that if it gets in the eyes it can cause severe irritation) (QLD Health 2017).
  • Food poisoning risk is greater in warmer weather. QLD Health (2017) conveys that 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 it. Avoid putting coins in foods or drinks, and be careful with coins in general. QLD Health (2017) states that coins can be dangerous as they pose risks from choking, swallowing or inhaling them.


(First published 21/12/2016, updated 19/12/2019)


Portrait of Madeline Gilkes
Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CNS, 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. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her brief research proposal for her PhD application involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is working towards Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) status and primarily works in the 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. See Educator Profile

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74 Total Rating(s)

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Caroline Elizabeth Rowland
03 Feb 2020

Very vague, not very informative. Would be better as a resource available to the general public for advice.

Portrait of Richard Baker
Richard Baker
20 Jan 2020

This was a brief but interesting article. I have worked for many, many Christmases and this has highlighted what I probably already knew. It's always good to see the statistics of different times of year.

Portrait of Nikki Sime
Nikki Sime
06 Jan 2020

An interesting quick read

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Lisa Archer
04 Jan 2020

interesting read

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Fiona Flannery
30 Dec 2019

Interesting, topical, it provided statistics. It also contained links to other articles and information.

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Treacy Jobson
29 Dec 2019

Christmas period leads to excess of Alcohol intox., drug use, depression, self harm, over eating, increased outdoor activities/ harm, snake and spider bites, car accidents presenting to Hospital.

Portrait of Rachel Kendon
Rachel Kendon
29 Dec 2019

A good overview of what we are likely to see over the Christmas and summer holiday period, with regard to emergency presentations!

Portrait of Ursula Skutta
Ursula Skutta
18 Dec 2019

Well written