The holiday season is upon us once again! While the spirit of Thanksgiving is centered on serving up a heaping helping of love, gratitude, and turkey- there are also a number of dangers associated with the holiday. One cardiologist with Banner University Medical Center in Arizona sees anywhere between a 25 to 30 percent increase in ER visits on Thanksgiving. From carving catastrophes to family fisticuffs it’s no wonder ER’s around the country see a spike in holiday related accidents, many of which are preventable. We’ve complied a list of some of the most common Thanksgiving Day accidents and tips that will keep you safe this holiday.
Thanksgiving Cooking injuries
There is no better kick-off to the holiday season than a home cooked Thanksgiving meal. Unfortunately, if you are not particularly kitchen savvy, there are also a lot of accidents waiting to happen as well. One of the most common holiday injuries seen in the ER are deep cuts to the fingers and hands. That automatic carving knife is a cool kitchen gadget for slicing into that golden turkey but if you are only pulling it out once a year and don’t remember how to use it, that’s an accident waiting to happen. These mini-chainsaws are fast and powerful and can slice into bone before people even realize they have been cut. Always read the enclosed instructions and exercise caution when slicing. Even though a tableside carving can look gorgeous, it may be safer to cut the turkey in the kitchen away from distractions.
If you love watching reality cooking shows on TV you know that even the best chefs slip up from time to time, even with ordinary knives. Cooking an entire meal for family and friends can be stressful but be sure to take your time when using sharp objects. Also, watch out that little ones who want to help aren’t within reach of knives or potentially harmful utensils.
Another holiday injury that can send people to the ER is burns. You have people coming and going through the kitchen, buzzers going off left and right, and you’re shuffling multiple dishes in and out of the oven and a hot stovetop. Whew! There is a lot going on and it can be easy to overlook putting on an oven mitt or leaning your arm across a hot dish just pulled out of a 400-degree oven.
Careful With That Deep Frier
Deep frying a turkey is also a popular, albeit dangerous holiday tradition as well. A number of statistics in recent years shows Texas leads the nation in turkey fryer accidents and fires. If the bird is wet or not 100% thawed it can catch fire or even explode. Fire isn’t the only concern you have to be on the look out for, oil that’s been heated to 350 degrees can cause devastating burns in mere seconds. Splattered grease can burn arms and hands, it can also singe eyebrows if you’re not careful. Remember, burns are serious injuries that need to be treated by a medical professional. A burn that isn’t painful still requires medical attention. Deep tissue burns can destroy nerves leading to a lack of sensation, so even though it may not hurt, it needs immediate medical intervention.
Believe it or not, burns to the tops of feet are also common during the holidays after a well-meaning cook or helper drops heavy dishes of hot food. Not paying attention to the potatoes or gravy and letting pots boil over is another common cause for burns on the tops of feet.
Foodborne illness is another common reason people rush themselves to the ER this time of year. Follow a few precautions in the kitchen if you are in charge of preparing this year’s Thanksgiving feast.
It should go without saying but before you begin preparing or eating any of your favorites be sure to wash your hands with warm, soapy water. This goes for all your utensils and cooking surfaces as well!
Don’t Cross Contaminate
Never keep raw meat, poultry, or seafood near ready-to-eat foods and never pack them in the same containers. It’s also important to use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods.
Know Your Numbers
Cooking food for a long enough amount of time, at a high enough temperature will help kill any harmful bacteria that could cause illness. Be sure that you thoroughly thaw your Thanksgiving bird ahead of time! Cooking a large item that is still partially frozen can make it difficult to tell when the entire bird is cooked. Check meat with a food thermometer and follow these temperature guidelines:
- Poultry (whole, pieces & ground): 165 °F /74 °C
- Ground meats: 160 °F /71 °C
- Beef, pork, lamb and veal (steaks, roasts & chops): 145 °F /63 °
- Fish & Shellfish: 145 °F (62.8 °C)
Store Food Properly
Never leave food out for more than 2 hours. Items need to be properly stored and refrigerated and leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees F.
Overindulgence in Food or Alcohol
We may joke about stuffing ourselves fuller than a Thanksgiving turkey, but overindulgence around the holidays can actually lead to a number of serious health problems. Overeating can be especially dangers for people who suffer from diabetes, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and other heart related issues. The heavy consumption of food puts extra demand on the digestive system. That increased workload means the heart has to pump more blood to the stomach and intestines, which is a problem for people who already have heart conditions. Fatty foods can also lead to changes that cause blood to clot more easily. Overindulgence can also lead to heartburn, gas, and can precipitate gall-bladder attacks.
Eating isn’t the only overindulgence that could send you to the ER this holiday season. It’s tempting to wash down all that terrific food with a couple of extra glasses of wine, or top off the night with one more helping of eggnog. Enjoy yourself, but please drink responsibly and never get behind the wheel. No one should have to spend their holiday in the ER because of a drunken accident.
One other word of caution before you dig in to your holiday feast, ask questions! If you have a food allergy, check to make sure there are no hidden dangers lurking in your meal. If you are allergic to nuts double check that your stuffing isn’t made with chestnuts. Have problems with dairy? What were those mashed potatoes whipped with? Cream and butter? Be on the lookout for foods or ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction and if you’ve been prescribed an epinephrine injection to combat anaphylaxis, be sure to bring it with you.
While the holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, gathering different personalities together can be a challenge. Add a few extra cocktails into the mix and a heated political discussion can turn into something much more dangerous. ER’s around the country see a variety of injuries from family gatherings gone wrong. If things are getting tense around the dinner table try to deescalate the situation before tempers flair and trouble erupts. Take a few deep breathes, go for a short walk, change the subject, or diffuse the situation with a joke.
Leave it to the professionals
A little physical activity is great during the holidays, but leave tackle football to the professionals. Thanksgiving Day is the king of football injuries. There are around one thousand Americans each year who end up getting hurt from football injuries. No one wants to spend the holidays laid up with a broken arm or sprained ankle.
The ER on Soncy is a full service ER with state-of-the-art imaging equipment, a laboratory, and a highly qualified staff. We are open 24/7 and that includes the holidays! So if you or a loved one suffers a Turkey Day mishap we are ready to take care of you and treat you like family.