HONOLULU -- The holidays can be a hectic time of the year for emergency rooms at any major hospital and Tripler Army Medical Center, also known as TAMC, is no exception.

According to Ms. Nika Long, TAMC Emergency Department Officer in Charge, TAMC treats approximately 140 patients daily in the Emergency Department (ED) and this can increase by 20 percent during any major holiday season.

Long explains that some of the top reasons for increased emergency room patient visits during the holidays can include colds or viruses, food poisoning, traffic accidents involving alcohol and feelings of hopelessness from depression.

Primary-care facilities are typically closed during the holidays, so many patients turn to the emergency room or urgent care centers for treatment of common cold and flu symptoms.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the best thing you can do to prevent the common cold and flu during the holidays is to schedule early check-up exams, screenings and ensure your vaccinations are up to date.

Another reason the ED sees an increase in patients is that large meals provide ample opportunity for food borne illnesses to wreak havoc.

Food poisoning isn't always the cause for an emergency room visit, but it could lead to dangerous levels of dehydration that should be treated immediately. "Proper cooking methods, hand washing and safe storage of leftovers are key to preventing food poisoning," says Long.

Throughout the holidays, between family gatherings, holiday parties and general celebrations, people may over indulge during the holidays which can lead to a number of different incidents.

"Patients are admitted into the emergency room for alcohol induced motor vehicle accidents, fights, etc.," Long explains. "It is important that you don't over-do it."

The CDC stresses the importance of drinking responsibly to avoid injury or serious blows to your health. The short term effects of alcohol can hinder decision making skills, lower reflex and response time, and worsen the symptoms of depression which could ultimately lead to negative long-term effects.

Because Hawaii is so far from the mainland, many service members are not able to afford to go home and be close to their families and therefore may spend the holidays alone. This can lead to depression and as a result TAMC's emergency room commonly sees an increase in visits from people who have suicidal thoughts or depressive behavior.

"One of the most difficult things to do during the holidays is to step outside of yourself and allow the people around you to carry you the way waves carry driftwood," said Lt Col. Eric Meyners, TAMC chaplain. "It is important to know that the military family is truly a strong family and can be there for you any time."

Do not let safety take a back seat to celebration as the holidays approach. Be cautious of your health, food preparation, drink responsibly and reach out to others for comfort and support.

For more information on holiday safety, visit http://www.cdc.gov/family/holiday/index.htm

If you are concerned with suicide, depression or simply need someone to talk to, contact the crisis hotline at 808-832-3100 or 1-800-273-8255.