Thanksgiving should be a time for family, friends and plenty of delicious food, not for preventable trips to the emergency room. These suggestions from the nation’s emergency physicians could help you avoid an unexpected trip to the emergency room this holiday season.
“This Thanksgiving, a few simple steps to avoid preventable injury or illness can go a long way toward making sure you safely enjoy the holiday,” said Paul Kivela, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “It is important to take the time to enjoy this special time of year. But, if the need arises, emergency physicians treat patients 24 hours a day, even on holidays, and we will be there for you.”
Follow food safety guidelines. For many people, the most important part of Thanksgiving is a big meal surrounded by friends and loved ones. Mishandling raw meat or other ingredients could transmit harmful bacteria or lead to some very unpleasant stomach pains.
Wash your hands thoroughly when handling uncooked meat and keep it separate from other foods. Be sure to sanitize any surface that touches raw food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that oven temperatures should be no lower than 325 degrees.
If you have allergies and you did not cook the meal yourself, remember to ask about the ingredients and how food was prepared. And, don’t forget to refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours. Pace yourself when a big meal is involved, whether you are preparing, eating or cleaning up afterward. If your gathering includes alcoholic beverages, drink in moderation. And of course, do not drink and drive.
Take your time to avoid common injuries. It can be hard not to get caught up in the holiday hustle. Careful planning for meal preparation can help you make sure there is plenty of time to get the job done. Be careful, knife injuries from slicing food are some of the most common Thanksgiving mishaps. Many accidents occur when carving or cutting too quickly.
Accidents or fires can be caused by trying to do too many things at once, exposure to hot liquid or oil splashes. Lifting heavy pots or plates? Bend at the knees and avoid back injuries. Deep frying a turkey can be especially dangerous, especially for novice cooks. Never attempt to deep fry a frozen turkey, it should be completely thawed out first. And, frying a turkey should be done a safe distance away from any flammable structure.
Exercise safely, don’t overdo it. Participating in a traditional Thanksgiving sporting event? If a “Turkey Bowl” or other athletic activity is part of your celebration remember to stretch first and avoid overexertion. Avoid weather-related issues such as hypothermia or frostbite by dressing appropriately for the weather outside. The ER will likely see a spate of holiday-related sprains, muscle tears or other injuries. Especially for those who may not exercise regularly, one way to decrease the likelihood of injury is to play touch football rather than tackle.
Thanksgiving can also be a challenge for those coping with mental health issues. Whether it comes from the pressure to entertain, financial strain, family tension or other issues, stress runs high this time of year. It is important to recognize and treat the symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders with professional help as needed. Better self-care can ward off things that may send you to the ER like panic attacks, complications from alcohol abuse or other emergencies.
“Distractions, multi-tasking and poor decisions make Thanksgiving one of the busier days in many emergency departments. If an emergency does occur, don’t delay a trip to the ER, putting off care might seem convenient at the time but poses serious health risks,” said Dr. Kivela.