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Avoid a Trip to the ER This Thanksgiving! Emergency Physicians Tell You How

The nation’s emergency physicians want to help you stay out of their workplaces this Thanksgiving,…

  • November 23, 2017

The nation’s emergency physicians want to help you stay out of their workplaces this Thanksgiving, and their sharing some holiday tips to keep you safe.

“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).

Take care to:

  • Follow food safety guidelines. 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.
  • Keep ovens hot enough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that oven temperatures should be no lower than 325 degrees.
  • Ask about allergy-triggering ingredients. 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.
  • 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.
  • Plan you moves. 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.
  • Don’t multitask too much. 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.

ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. Find out more at

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