WASHINGTON, DC — For millions of people, Thanksgiving starts in the kitchen. Unfortunately, so do many safety risks, such as cooking fires. Emergency physicians offer a few health and safety tips to help you avoid a trip to the ER this holiday season.
Research from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reveals that in 2017, on average, U.S. fire departments responded to a home fire every 88 seconds. And, Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for cooking fires.
“A few simple steps can ensure that you spend Thanksgiving with your family and loved ones, not in the emergency department,” said Vidor Friedman, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “Try to avoid doing too many things at once; burns, fires or lacerations happen when you lose concentration, get careless with hot liquids or oils, or try to slice things too quickly.”
- Make sure you have smoke alarms installed near the kitchen, bedrooms and on each level of the home. Test batteries and make sure that the devices are fully operational.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen. Contact your local EMS department for tips on proper training and storage.
- Avoid loose clothing or wearing anything that dangles while cooking.
- Keep an eye on simmering pots as well as items baking in the oven.
- Keep kids and pets away from cooking areas.
- Clean cooking areas regularly. Grease build up is a health and safety hazard.
- Double check when you are done cooking that you have turned off the stove, oven or any appliances.
- Do not throw water on a grease fire. The safest and fastest way to extinguish a grease fire is to remove oxygen from the flame. The best ways to do that are to smother it with a lid, another pot or a blanket. If the fire is not severe, you can cover it with baking soda.
- Do not put a frozen turkey in the oven. Thaw and dry it first.
- Never deep fry a frozen turkey, it should be completely thawed out first. And, frying a turkey should be done outside on a flat, non-flammable structure.
- Wash your hands thoroughly when handling uncooked meat and keep it separate from other foods.
- Sanitize any surface that touches raw food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that oven temperatures should be no lower than 325 degrees.
- If you have allergies and you did not cook the meal yourself, remember to ask about the ingredients and how food was prepared. Refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours.
- Pace yourself when a big meal is involved, whether you are preparing, eating or cleaning up afterward. Chew slowly and carefully to avoid choking. Cut food into small pieces and make sure children are sitting calmly while eating.
- If food gets stuck, don’t panic. Relax and take a drink of water. If you can’t breathe, bang on something, or do anything you can to get attention and get help. Have somebody call 911 while somebody else, preferably a person who is trained in emergency first aid such as the Heimlich maneuver, tries to dislodge the food.
- If your gathering includes alcoholic beverages, drink in moderation. And of course, do not drink and drive.
ACEP is the national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.