Thanksgiving is unique among U.S. holidays, in that it is observed by people of almost every religious and political belief. For most, Thanksgiving is a day of gratitude for the blessing of food, family, warmth and abundance.
Unfortunately, Thanksgiving is also the time of year when U.S. injury and mortality rates begin to rise, a trend that continues until after New Year’s Day. Below are ways to avoid the leading causes of Thanksgiving injuries, and to stay safe during the holidays.
Vehicle Accidents, Especially Alcohol and DUI-related Incidents
The risk of an auto accident increases with more cars on the road; Thanksgiving is one the busiest travel days of the year, and 90% of that is by car. Combine that with increased levels of alcohol consumption associated with the holiday, and it explains why Thanksgiving is the deadliest holiday on U.S. roads. If you will be driving this Thanksgiving, please follow these important tips:
- Don’t drive impaired. Designate a sober driver, or use a ride share service to get home safely. If you see someone driving recklessly or under the influence, call 911.
- Before leaving, make sure your vehicle is in good operating condition. Fill your gas tank, and check your engine fluids and tire pressure. Clean your car’s lights, windows and mirrors for good visibility.
- Wear your seat belt.
- Don’t drive drowsy.
- Don’t drive distracted by cell phones or other devices.
- Observe the speed limits and follow the rules of the road.
Coronary and Other Stress-related Events Around Thanksgiving
Heart-related problems increase during the holidays, partly due to the overindulgence of rich, fatty, foods, and a higher consumption of alcohol. Other causes of heart issues are overexertion and forgetting daily medications due to a disrupted routine.
Stress is also a top factor in heart-related events and ailments with similar symptoms, such as panic attacks. Holiday elements can be emotionally and psychologically taxing: rushing to get on the road, preparing an elaborate meal for a large crowd, and dealing with difficult guests. Here are some ways to care for yourself this Thanksgiving:
- Slow down. If you are feeling rushed or panicked, stop and take a moment to remember that your health and safety are important, too.
- If you are feeling stressed, excuse yourself for a few minutes. Go to a quiet room, sit in your car, or go outside. Take some relaxing breaths.
- Reduce the size of food portions – that way, you can taste all the delicious dishes without overeating. (You can always go back for seconds in the unlikely event you’re still hungry.)
- Pay attention to how much you’re drinking. Try alternating alcoholic beverages with water or nonalcoholic drinks so you don’t become intoxicated.
- Take a walk after dinner. Exercise relieves stress, aids digestion, improves your mood, and may give you a temporary break from family members who are getting on your nerves.
Thanksgiving Kitchen Accidents
- Avoid distractions when slicing or chopping food: focus on the task.
- Make sure you are comfortable carving the turkey – here’s a tutorial.
- Make sure your carving knife is sharp. Dull knives increase the risk of slippage and injury.
- Always cut away from your hands and body.
- If you drop the knife, step back and DON’T try to catch it.
- Secure your cutting board with a non-skid pad.
- When cooking, avoid wearing loose clothes like scarves or hanging sleeves.
- Turn pot handles away from the front of the stove top.
- Be careful when removing the turkey from the oven.
- DO NOT put water on a grease fire. Have an ABC-rated fire extinguisher within easy reach.
A note on deep frying turkeys: According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in recent years, hundreds of injuries and millions of dollars in damages have been caused by fires and explosions from turkey frying incidents. The National Fire Prevention Association discourages consumers from frying turkeys in oil, and recommends that fried-turkey lovers purchase it from a professional food retailer or use an “oil-less” turkey fryer.
Food borne illnesses affect millions of Americans each year; under cooked turkey is a breeding ground for salmonella. To prepare a safe meal this Thanksgiving:
- Wash your hands often with soap and warm water, and disinfect counter tops and serving dishes as you touch raw foods.
- Keep your food stored at the right temperature: at or below 40° F in the fridge, and below 0° F in the freezer.
- Defrost in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
- Use a food thermometer; cook turkey to an internal temperature of 165° F.
- Cook stuffing outside the turkey.
- Don’t leave food out for more than two hours. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165° F.
Football injuries also spike on Thanksgiving, as many families have made playing the game a holiday tradition. Here’s how to avoid overexertion, sore muscles, sprains, strains, or broken bones:
- If you don’t regularly play sports or work out, begin a gentle exercise routine at least a few weeks before the holiday to acclimate your body to more vigorous activity.
- Instead of tackle football, play touch or flag football.
- Warm up before the game, and stretch out afterwards to avoid painful muscle cramps.
- Don’t play if you’ve been drinking. Alcohol will impair your judgement and mask the severity of an injury, which could lead to a medical emergency.
- If you do pull or strain a muscle, have some R.I.C.E – rest, ice, compression and elevation.
Pets and House Guests Around Thanksgiving May Lead to Dog Bites
Having guests in the home can be frightening for canine family members. Stressed dogs may react unpredictably, which is why dog bites also increase around the holidays. Help keep your furry friends calm on Thanksgiving with these tips:
- Put the dog in its crate or a separate room with a bone or his favorite toy to keep him entertained for the evening.
- If that isn’t possible, have one adult supervise the dog continuously to be alert to signs of stress: crouching, hiding, tucking her tail, putting her ears back, and being unnaturally still or panicked.
- Watch the dog carefully around children: Don’t allow them to play with the dog’s food bowl or toys, or disturb the dog if he is trying to sleep. Make sure they stay out of the dog’s face, and don’t climb on or poke the dog, pull his ears, or try to kiss or hug him.
- Don’t allow anyone to provoke or tease the dog.
- Try to maintain the dog’s routine feeding and exercise times if possible.
The TorkLaw staff wishes you a safe and happy Thanksgiving! We hope your celebration is low-stress and injury free. But if you need us, we’re here: call 888-845-9696.