Like Clark Griswold: 1 in 4 Americans Love the Holidays Until it Hurts

December 20, 2021

Like Clark Griswold: 1 in 4 Americans Love the Holidays Until it Hurts

DrFirst Survey Finds Injuries From Cooking, Ladders, Gift Wrapping, and Hard Candy

Rockville, Md. – Dec. 20, 2021 – It’s no surprise that Americans are more likely to injure themselves during the holiday season, but painful mishaps are especially problematic during Thanksgiving and Christmas when people are less likely to seek emergency room (ER) care for themselves or a loved one, according to a survey by healthcare technology pioneer DrFirst.

DrFirst surveyed more than 1,000 American consumers to explore their attitudes, behaviors, and experiences around emergency care during the holidays. The survey finds that more than a quarter of people (26%) report they’ve needed to call for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for themselves or family members during the holidays, with Thanksgiving and Christmas topping the list.

Holiday festivities are most likely to hurt when, much like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, ladders, roofs, ovens, and sharp instruments are in play. Over 40% of survey respondents reported cooking-related injuries, including from a knife or a burn, with other incidents stemming from a wide range of sources, including:

  • Cuts while opening or wrapping presents (13%)
  • Broken tooth on hard candy, such as candy canes (13%)
  • Back injury from decorating or traveling with heavy luggage (7%)
  • Asthma attacks, allergic reaction, or difficulty breathing (32%)

In addition, nearly 20% of people report that they or a family member have accidentally started a fire or had to call the fire department during the holidays, while 19 percent say they’ve fallen off the roof or a ladder while decorating outside.

Nearly a third (30%) of Americans said that they are less likely to visit the ER or call EMS during crowded times of the year, such as holidays, with more than half noting concerns about ER wait times. Other concerns include:

  • Wait times at the ER (56%)
  • Overcrowded hospitals (39%)
  • Not being able to see their regular healthcare provider (35%)
  • Understaffed EMS or ERs (35%)
  • Extended wait times for an ambulance (30%)
  • Wait times on the phone with 911 or a healthcare provider (22%)

“A trip to the ER is never high on someone’s holiday to-do list, but lives are at risk if people avoid emergency treatment when they urgently need it,” said Colin Banas, M.D., M.H.A., chief medical officer for DrFirst. “New options in telehealth, in partnership with EMS systems, can treat patients ‘in place,’ when appropriate, which helps avoid adding pressure on crowded emergency rooms and is faster and more convenient for patients.”

Consistent with the growth of telehealth during the pandemic, two-thirds (67%) of respondents said they would be interested in having the option for a telehealth visit while EMS was onsite for possible treatment in place if appropriate.

“For example, if someone falls from a ladder putting up holiday lights and then can’t put weight on their ankle, it’s hard for them to know if it requires emergency care,” said Dr. Banas. He added that with an EMS telehealth system in place, paramedics can initiate a video visit at the scene so the physician can see the injury, observe the patient walking, ask questions, and even guide the paramedic to put pressure on certain areas as part of the assessment. If warranted, the physician can transmit an electronic prescription and suggest the patient follow up with their primary care physician in the next few days instead of transporting the patient by ambulance to the ER. “This means the patient was treated more quickly and appropriately, thereby avoiding a busy ER, and that ambulance is now available for other emergencies.”

Backline EMS, DrFirst’s award-winning care collaboration platform, is used by EMS systems across the U.S. for telehealth services and secure communications with the ER. In 911 settings, specially trained paramedics can initiate a telehealth call with an emergency physician to evaluate the patient and treat in place, when possible, to avoid unnecessary trips to the ER. This is easier on patients and allows ambulances to be used only when they are most needed. In addition, Backline EMS speeds time-to-care by providing on-the-scene access to patients’ medication history and secure messaging to prepare the ER team for immediate action upon the patient’s arrival.


A national online survey of 1,023 U.S. consumers, ages 18 and over, was conducted by Propeller Insights on behalf of DrFirst in May of 2021. Survey responses were nationally representative of the U.S. population for age, gender, region, and ethnicity. The maximum margin of sampling error was +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence.

About DrFirst

Since 2000, DrFirst has pioneered healthcare technology solutions and consulting services that securely connect people at touchpoints of care to improve patient outcomes. We create unconventional solutions that solve care collaboration, medication management, price transparency, and adherence challenges faced in healthcare. We unite the Healthiverse—the interconnected healthcare universe—by providing our clients with real-time access to the information they need, exactly when and how they need it, so patients get the best care possible. DrFirst solutions are used by nearly 325,000 healthcare professionals, including more than 120,000 prescribers, 70,000 pharmacies, 280 HIS/EHRs, and 1,500 hospitals in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more, visit and follow @DrFirst.