Happy Thanksgiving! Tips for a Safe and Healthy Holiday

Holiday celebrations gone wrong may make for funny and entertaining television or campfire stories, but very few of us wish to experience a holiday emergency! The fact is, many holiday-related emergencies, medical or otherwise, are preventable. You can make sure that your Thanksgiving celebration is safe and enjoyable for all who attend by following a few simple steps.

Avoid Food Borne Illness

It’s hard to feel thankful when you are battling a food borne illness! Take the following precautions to ensure that what you and your friends and family are eating will not make you ill.

  • Thaw your turkey properly. The turkey should be kept in its original wrappings and thawed in a refrigerator, one day for every four pounds of turkey. Be sure to place the turkey in or over a pan to catch the drippings. You can also thaw your turkey by submerging it in cold water, one half hour for every pound of turkey, but be sure to change the water every thirty minutes. Your turkey should be cooked immediately after thawing.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Be sure that cooking utensils and fresh foods are kept away from uncooked turkey. Also be aware of any towels or potholders used to handle uncooked or undercooked turkey–these should not be used when handling other foods. Wash your hand and utensils often, especially after handling your uncooked bird.
  • Cook your turkey thoroughly. Poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165°F before being consumed. Use a food thermometer to help you ensure that your turkey reaches the correct internal temperature; use the thermometer to check the temperature of the meaty part of the breast, thigh and wing and also the stuffing inside the bird. After cooking, let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly. Any leftovers should be properly stored and refrigerated as soon as possible. Any food left out for more than two hours should be discarded.

Prevent Fires and Burns

The National Fire Protection Association reports that three times the average amount of fires occured on Thanksgiving Day in 2009 than on a usual day. Many of these holiday fires, and the burn injuries that often result, happen in the kitchen and can be easily prevented.

  • Residue left on the stovetop can cause flare-ups and burns. Reduce this risk by cleaning your stovetop and oven before doing a substantial amount of cooking.
  • Avoid spilling hot foods or liquids by using the back burners first and rotating the pot handles towards the back of the stove. Long sleeves and dangling jewelry can also cause spills by catching on pot handles, so be sure to dress appropriately.
  • Don’t leave cooking food unattended. Turn off the stove if you must leave the room, and check your food regularly.

Accidents do happen, however, and a fire may break out. Small grease fires can be smothered by sliding the lid over the pan and turning off the stove, while oven fires can be contained by turning off the heat and keeping the door closed. If the fire grows bigger, don’t try to contain it yourself; get out, closing the door behind you, and call 911 or the local emergency number after you leave.

Following these tips can help ensure that the holiday memories you make are pleasant ones!