From cooking that Thanksgiving turkey to putting up those Christmas decorations to popping the cork on that bottle wine, health and safety officials are urging everyone to be careful and have a safe holiday season.
The American College of Emergency Physicians, the AAA and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment want revelers to enjoy the festivities, not wind up getting injured. Just following few simple tips can lessen the likelihood of a trip to the ER.
“Preparation, organization and common sense are the most important ingredients in the recipe for a safe and fun Thanksgiving,” said William Jaquis, MD, president of ACEP. “Do your part to make sure you can spend the holiday with friends and loved ones instead of the emergency department. But, rest assured that an emergency physician will be there for you anytime an emergency occurs, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even on holidays.”
Avoid a trip to the emergency department this holiday season with these helpful tips:
• Practice safe cooking techniques. Watch temperature levels, read instructions, make sure ovens are functioning properly. Unsafe handling or undercooking food can lead to illness, such as salmonella. Thaw turkey properly before cooking at a minimum of 325 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discourages thawing turkey by leaving it on the countertop, which can cause bacteria growth. If thawing by leaving the turkey in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for every five pounds of weight. The US Department of Agriculture says that leftovers are good for three to four days, if refrigerated. Make sure you wash your hands, cook on a clean surface and avoid cross-contamination with raw meats or other food that requires safe handling.
• Supervise children in the kitchen. Accidents happen when kids can grab sharp knives or touch hot pots on the stove. Every day 300 children are treated in emergency departments for burn-related injuries, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Burns and scalds remain the number one cause of unintentional injury in children ages 0-5.
• Don’t leave food cooking unattended, home fires often start in the kitchen. Take your time to avoid slips or falls and reduce the number of safety hazards in crowded areas. Don’t leave candles burning if you are not in the room and don’t light candles near open windows.
• Celebrate responsibly. Enjoy the festivities in moderation. Overeating can cause stomach issues or more serious health problems for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes. If alcohol is being served, please do not drink and drive. Thanksgiving is one of the heaviest traffic days of the year. If weather is bad, allow plenty of travel time. Make sure your vehicle has an up-to-date safety kit. And, try to stay calm.
In recent years, some have started referring to the night before Thanksgiving as “Blackout Wednesday” or “Drinksgiving” because of the heavy alcohol consumption or binge drinking done by college students and others, home for the holiday and reuniting with friends and family at bars, restaurants or homes, the AAA reports.
According to the Kansas Department of Transportation, the day before Thanksgiving sees more impairment-related crashes than any other day of the year.
From 2013 to 2017, more than 800 people died nationwide in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period (6 p.m. Wednesday to 5:59 a.m. Monday), making it the deadliest holiday on our roads, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday period during those same five years (2013-2017) in Kansas, there were 185 alcohol-related crashes, resulting in 105 injuries and seven fatalities.
The Kansas Highway Patrol, along with local law enforcement, will be increasing patrols to foster safe roadways during the busy Thanksgiving holiday travel week, with a special eye out for impaired drivers and those not wearing seatbelts.
• Be careful if you need to retrieve or return decorations on high shelves, packed closets or attics with low ceilings. Watch for exposed nails, wires or places where footing may be uneven.
• Dress for the cold. Be prepared for rain, snow, wind and low temperatures. Hypothermia, dehydration or frostbite are more likely to occur the longer you stay outside. Early signs of frostbite include numbness or burning, or cold skin that turns hard and pale. Falling is the leading cause of injury among seniors. Slow down to avoid slipping or falling in snow, ice or wet conditions.
“Winter months are busy in the emergency department,” said Vidor Friedman, MD, FACEP, past president of ACEP. “Unfortunately, a lot of patients we see have avoidable injuries this time of year. But, no matter what, emergency physicians will be ready, 24 hours a day even during holidays, to make sure you are safe if you, a friend or loved one has a health emergency.”
• If you are decorating outside, follow commonsense safety procedures when hanging lights or lifting heavy boxes. If you must go on the roof, review safe ladder usage tips and use the “buddy system.” Use indoor lights inside, and outdoor lights outside. Interior cords are not meant to endure snow, rain or other wet weather conditions. Falls and back injuries are common reasons patients end up in the ER this time of year.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates there are about 15,000 annual injuries from Christmas decorating. Inside, be mindful of small lights or decorations getting too close to the mouths of small children or pets. Keep candles or hot lights away from fire hazards, such as curtains. Turn off indoor and outdoor lights, and blow out candles, before you go to sleep at night.
• As the weather gets worse, you’ll probably be spending more time inside. It’s the perfect reason to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Normal cough or cold is likely more appropriate for urgent or primary care, but if your respiratory illness comes with complications or you have trouble breathing, you may need emergency medical attention.
• Enjoy the moment, slowly. Overeating is common and too much salt, sugar or cholesterol can complicate existing health conditions like diabetes. Eat slowly and chew carefully to avoid choking. And, limit your alcohol intake.
“Holiday heart,” is what emergency physicians call the cardiac issues that are more common during the winter months. Mental health plays an important role in your physical well-being, too. Emergency visits associated with depression, anxiety or other mental health challenges tend to spike around the holidays.
Add a dash of safety to your holiday kitchen traditions
Safety tips for little helpers offered
TOPEKA – Many holiday memories include time spent in the kitchen cooking or baking traditional foods. Keep it fun and safe with a few simple tips so children can join in.
“When kids are in the kitchen, the most important ingredient is a watchful eye,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “Whether helping an adult cook or simply hanging out and watching the action, children should be in sight and within reach at all times.” If you will be busy with preparations, ask another adult or teenager to watch the children as they perform age-appropriate tasks.
Burns — from spills, steam, hot surfaces and flame — can be especially devastating injuries. Because young children have thinner skin than adults, they burn more severely and at lower temperatures. Scald burns from hot liquid or steam are the most common type of burns among children ages 4 and under. A child will suffer a full-thickness burn (third-degree burn) after just three seconds of exposure to 140-degree water.
Safe Kids Kansas recommends these precautions against kitchen burns:
• Keep within eyesight of a hot stove. Unattended food on the stove is the number one cause of home fires.
• Never hold a child while cooking or carrying hot items, especially liquids that can spill or splash.
• Cook on back burners whenever possible and turn all handles toward the back of the stove.
• Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables. Be especially careful around tablecloths — children can pull hot dishes down onto themselves.
• Tie up the electrical cords of small appliances. A toddler playing with a dangling cord can pull a toaster or microwave down from a countertop.
In addition to hot surfaces, hot liquids and sharp objects, the other major hazard in the kitchen is poison. Store potential hazards, such as cleaning products and alcohol (including many baking extracts), in locked cabinets out of reach. Also, install a carbon monoxide detector to alert everyone to get out of the house if there is a buildup of the odorless toxic gas given off by fuel-burning appliances.
Children who can follow directions may be ready to help out in the kitchen with tasks that do not involve knives, appliances, or heat. Some examples of child-friendly tasks include: tearing lettuce, rinsing fruits and vegetables under cold water, stirring ingredients in a bowl, using cookie cutters, measuring dry ingredients, using vegetable peelers or cutting soft fruits with a butter knife.
“You know your own children. Don’t give them knives or let them handle anything hot until you know they have the maturity and coordination to do it safely,” says Sage. “Some children mature faster than others, so it’s up to parents to use good judgment about each child’s capabilities.”
For more information about safety and burn prevention, visit www.safekidskansas.org.