family at thanksgiving

Please remember to check for squirrels nesting in your tree before you bring it inside. It could lead to bad things. Oh wait, wrong holiday. But, we hope you get the reference.

So what could possibly go wrong over Thanksgiving? You aren’t climbing an icy ladder with 20 pounds of lights in your hand trying to win your neighborhood light decorating contest. What’s there even to discuss? Dr. Michael Lynch, Medical Director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center, explains that there are plenty of safety concerns to take into account. “Unfortunately, every year, Thanksgiving is marred for many people with accidental medication ingestions, environmental exposures, and food poisoning,” he says.

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Family Visitors

Traditionally, one of the most important parts of celebrating Thanksgiving is spending time with our families. “It is important that families make sure that the environment is safe for family members of all ages,” explains Dr. Lynch. Unfortunately, holidays and family visits are a common time for unintentional medication ingestion by children. Medications may be stored in easy to reach pill organizers, non-child resistant containers, or in purses or bags that are easily accessible to children.

“Even with the use of child-resistant containers, we have seen children overcome that obstacle with serious consequences,” he says. “All medications should be put away up high and preferably locked to avoid an accidental poisoning.” Likewise, families need to be aware of dangers to children in houses that are not typically childproofed so that proper precautions and supervision can be maintained.

Environmental Exposures

Furnaces and space heaters are running on overtime lately with the frigid Arctic weather. According to Dr. Lynch, “Use of heaters, especially kerosene or gas space heaters, increases the potentially fatal risk of carbon monoxide exposure.” Be sure to have your furnace checked annually and ensure adequate ventilation of exhaust fumes. “All homes and businesses should have at least one carbon monoxide detector. They are inexpensive and save lives,” says Dr. Lynch.

Food Preparation

You don’t want food poisoning. So follow these easy tips for a delicious E.coli-free turkey.

  • Thawing: Thaw the turkey completely before cooking. This is safely done in a refrigerator, generally over the course of 1-3 days.
  • Stuffing: It’s recommended that the stuffing be cooked separately in a casserole dish rather than stuffed within the turkey to a temperature of 165°F. Do not allow stuffing to cool within the turkey.
  • Cooking the Turkey: Cook the turkey for an adequate period of time (varies based on weight) and to at least the safe minimum temperature of 165°F.

Because Thanksgiving can be filled with chaos, children running amok, and the possibility of having one to many drinks, here are some additional helpful tips to follow to stay safe this Thanksgiving:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking. It only takes a second for a child to tip over a pan or a fire to start if anything is left unattended.
  • Keep the floor clear. This can come in handy when carrying the turkey from the kitchen to the dining room table. You don’t want to be known as the family member who tripped on a Nerf gun and ruined Thanksgiving.
  • Make sure cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer, or mixer are not dangling off the counter. Everyone knows children like to grab things.
  • This is very important. Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them!
  • After all is said and done, ensure that your kitchen is shut down. After a few holiday drinks, it can be easy to forget that you never turned off the oven.

For more information, contact the Pittsburgh Poison Center at 800-222-1222 or visit the Pittsburgh Poison Center website.

About Pittsburgh Poison Center

The Pittsburgh Poison Center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide poison information and respond to emergencies. You can call 1-800-222-1222, 24 hours a day, for emergency help. We answer more than 100,000 calls each year from across Pennsylvania, at no cost to callers. Our staff of nurse specialists has extensive training in clinical toxicology. We also created a network of more than 70 hospitals throughout the state for consultation and follow-up treatment of poison exposure. For nearly 50 years, our symbol Mr. Yuk has helped to educate children and adults about poison prevention and poison center awareness. All stickers of Mr. Yuk carry important poison control phone numbers.