CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It's not just Santa who is busy this Christmas. Turns out, this is also one of the busiest times of year for emergency room visits.
Doctors say many of the visits revolve around food, saying many patients come in with cuts and burns. Others, they say, overindulge or experience food poisoning.
Emergency room traffic is also oftentimes clogged with those sick with the flu, especially children.
“This time of year is busy for both coughs and colds, those types of things, as well as accidents,” says Ruth Krystopolski, Senior Vice President of Population Health for Carolinas Healthcare System.
She says one of their busiest emergency departments is at Carolinas Medical Center, located on Blythe Blvd in Charlotte. Earlier this week, patients waited, at times, up to 8 hours to be seen. Krystopolski says part of the reason is that CMC Main is the area's only Level I Trauma center.
“Patients are triaged based on their complexity so if someone comes in and needs significant more care than you need, you get bumped,” says Krystopolski.
Thursday, CMC Main's emergency department posted that it was experiencing a wait “longer than 2 hours,” but didn't specify exactly how much longer.
Doctors, however, say patients have options when it comes to receiving medical care and don't always need to visit an emergency department. They say urgent care centers are oftentimes faster and more affordable for those not suffering life-threatening illnesses, such as the flu, norovirus or minor injuries.
“Urgent care centers can take of many things and as matter of fact, about 53 percent of things we see in an emergency department can be taken care of in an urgent care center,” she says.
So how do you know when you should go to Urgent Care or when to go to the ER?
Doctors say if it's not life-threatening head to an urgent care center near you. But if you're having chest pain, trouble breathing, or excessive numbness or bleeding you should head straight to the emergency department.
Krystopolski says patients can view hospital wait times or online, or even easier, just ask Amazon's Alexa to put their name on a waiting list at the nearest urgent care center.