7 of the Most Bizarre Reasons People End Up in the Emergency Room

Emergency room staff see some crazy stuff, but you may be surprised to hear it’s not always the drama-filled scenes you see on TV. There’s a reason shows like Nurse Jackie and ER have such a loyal fan base, after all. A pill-popping ER nurse, fighting her own addiction, and a string of dramatic trauma cases are far more entertaining than patients with headaches and sprained fingers.

But the truth is emergency rooms tend to be a bit more low-key on a day-to-day basis — they may even be weirder than you would think. Here are seven of the the most bizarre reasons people end up in the emergency room.

1. Beach chair injuries

couple lounging in beach chairs

You may be better off on a towel, rather than beach chair. | iStock.com

There are some fairly unusual reasons people visit the emergency room. Just take a look at this graph compiled by FlowingData, for instance. The data, which was collected in 2014 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, shows just how random ER injuries can be. One worth mentioning has to do with ruining an otherwise perfect day of fun in the sun: Emergency rooms across the U.S. saw 1,231 beach chair-related injuries in June alone. Talk about spoiling a day at the beach.

2. Skin rashes mistaken for something more serious

woman itching the her hand

Lots of people develop a skin rash at some point in life. | iStock.com

Having any sort of reaction appear on your skin can be cause for concern. But there’s no need to take it upon yourself to diagnose it as a much more serious disease, at least not before you’ve actually heard a doctor’s opinion.

One Reddit user said, “I have patients who develop a rash, look it up on WebMD, and come to me screaming that they must have Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.” Fast forward to the exam part of an ER visit, and the most common diagnosis is “contact dermatitis from laundry soap.” Reddit does go on to say, however, that although Stevens-Johnson syndrome is very rare, you should see a doctor immediately if you develop a rash after taking a new medication.

It’s usually not that serious

Female Hand Pouring Detergent In The Blue Bottle Cap

Switching detergents could clear up skin rashes. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

If that skin rash is due to contact dermatitis, there’s no reason to panic. In most cases it’s not necessarily all that serious, and could even go away on its own. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Almost everyone gets this type of eczema at least once. We get contact dermatitis when something that our skin touches causes a rash. Some rashes happen immediately. Most take time to appear.” Irritants can include bleach, nickel, and latex gloves.

3. Q-tips

Woman holds her hand near ear

Don’t be too eager to Q-tip your ears every day. | iStock.com

Foreign objects are a big one, and there’s a wide range of them that can cause enough harm where an ER visit is in order. One Reddit user says he sees a lot of this one. “Ear wax is NOT your enemy. It protects your ears — it has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and is absorbent. Not a week goes by without a consultant for blood in the ear due to a Q-tip, or a ruptured drum from puncturing it with a foreign object, or a thermal injury from ear candling. It is NOT DIRT.” So, you might want to ease up on your cotton swab usage.

4. Fishhooks

man fishing in river

Fishhooks can easily get caught where they don’t belong. | iStock.com

If you’re cringing right now thinking about getting hooked, or hooking your friend in a not so pleasant place, know it is very possible. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, fishhooks are right up there with splinters and glass. “Most fishhook injuries occur in the hand, face or scalp, upper extremity, or foot,” the organization says. “Fishhooks in the eyelid or eye require immediate ophthalmologic referral.” Just thinking about a hook in the eye is enough to send a person to the ER.

5. Swallowing knives

emergency room entrance

Emergency room staff see a lot of strange cases. | iStock.com

In the same vein, actually ingesting foreign objects can cause a well-deserved trip to the ER. While this may sound pretty ludicrous, it does happen. Vice polled a few medical professionals about some of the bizarre things ER docs see. In one response, the physician mentioned how those with mental health problems often engage in self-harming behavior. Unfortunately, it seems some emergency rooms are no strangers to people who consistently swallow harmful objects; knives, in particular.

The objects are sometimes better off left inside the patient

Doctor examining chest x-ray

X-rays can show objects, but they’re often better left untouched. | iStock.com/DragonImages

One healthcare professional told Vice there are lots of well-known people who swallow knives, moving around from one hospital to the next. And interestingly enough, trying to remove such objects can be more dangerous than leaving them. “The surgeons won’t really operate on them unless they’ve perforated some part of their gastrointestinal track,” Vice explains. “Sometimes they won’t even operate on them anyways because they’re just going to do it again. So we just manage their symptoms.” Ouch.

6. Wire bristle grill brushes

man grilling

Wire bristle grill brushes send some folks to the ER. | iStock.com

You don’t often worry about grill tools being cause for concern, but the bristles on wire grill brushes have been known to get stuck on grills, resulting in transfer to whatever you happen to be cooking at the moment. While the numbers aren’t staggering, it does happen. Using data projections from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, researchers estimate more than 1,600 ER visits were a result of ingesting wire bristle grill brushes between 2002 to 2014. Again, not staggering, but something to keep in mind.

Tips to ensure a safe grilling environment

friends hanging out around the grill at a cookout

Know how to best keep your backyard BBQ safe. | iStock.com

BBQ-goers and chefs alike should be well-educated on the products they’re using. And according to Fox News, there are some precautions you can take to make sure you don’t end up in the ER thanks to a bristle-loaded burger.

For instance, only use quality tools, thoroughly clean your grill and tools, and prepare the meat properly. And probably most importantly, make sure you’re paying attention. It’s easy to throw meat on the grill and walk away to socialize, but keeping a watchful eye on your meal can make a big difference.

7. Beds or bed frames

bed and head board

Your bed may be more dangerous than you think. | iStock.com

Similar to our first point, this one also comes from FlowingData’s visual, which includes injury data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Injuries related beds or bed frames comes in at No. 3 on the list. (If you’re wondering what took the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, it was stairs/steps — at 1,135,343 ER visits in 2014 — and floors/flooring materials — at 1,131,428 ER visits in 2014. But those two seemed a little less unusual, seeing as falling down stairs, or even tumbles due to slippery floors are quite common.)

Beds and bed frames accounted for 620,302 ER visits in 2014, which seems remarkably high. It seems like more of a user error issue, if you really think about it.