We’ve all seen cute memes on Facebook as we scroll through our timeline; “Bitten by A Vampire? There’s a code for that!” ICD-10 S10.87XA. “Overdose on turkey? There’s a code for that!” ICD-10 E70.5 or R63.2. “Grandma got run over by a reindeer? There’s a code for that, too!” ICD-10 V06.00XA.

The list goes on and on. Aside from the laughter and fun we all need in our respective fields – it’s important to realize that the holiday season does see an increase in accidents and injuries. Coders need to be prepared to perform the correct coding for diagnoses and procedures in these instances.

The holidays come to us along with changes in weather, and a sense of urgency to shop, drive, travel, and spend time with family. Unfortunately, with these things come a host of seasonal dangers that put us all at risk. Some of the most common holiday accidents include: burns, falls, choking, electric shock, lacerations, car crashes, hunting accidents, and even plant poisonings.

Burns are one of the most common holiday-related injuries. Burns that are caused by cooking mishaps, the increased use of candles, and even accidental fires at the hands of Christmas lights and stray kindling elicit frequent trips to the emergency room between November and December. Burns to localized areas such as the head, trunk, shoulder, and lower limbs begin in your ICD-10-SM book at T20 – keep this in mind the next time your patients roast more than chestnuts over the open fire. Remember that when coding for burns, you must also submit surface area. For burns with an unspecified surface area, search section T31 in your ICD-10-CM manual for guidance.

Choking can be a traumatic experience for anyone. With the amount of food consumed during the holidays, and the small trinkets and toys that children get their hands on during the season, choking injuries become prominent during the holidays. Choking is a serious condition, with rather detailed coding requirements. Codes involve external causes such as food, or activities/games, as well as unspecified causes. For foreign objects in the pharynx, you will start your code selection search in section T17 of your manual. Within this section, you will find codes for gastric contents in the pharynx, food in the pharynx, or other foreign objects in the pharynx.

Travel around the country increases exponentially during the holidays, and sadly, so do injuries from car accidents. In 2015, it was estimated that 46.9 million Americans traveled for Thanksgiving alone. Car accidents can lead to any number of injuries, ranging in severity. For car accidents, you will first code injuries sustained by the patient, i.e. lacerations, concussion, spinal injury, etc. Some of these injuries can be coded from chapter 19 of your manual. After the correct code selection for injuries in 19, you can move along to chapter 20. For vehicular incidents, code V00 to V99 may be the most useful. These codes are separated into twelve groups that reflect the patient’s mode of transport. External cause codes were reworked extensively for ICD-10-CM, so you must be careful if working off memory. More often than not, external causes will be listed secondarily.

As we find ourselves in the midst of the ever-encroaching holiday season, we must remember that no matter the type/cause of injury – there’s a code for that!