Injury Prevention Tips for Thanksgiving

For millions of New Yorkers, Thanksgiving is an important celebration bringing together family and friends over food and drinks.

Unfortunately, this rich American holiday is also when Jamaica Hospital Medical Center sees an increase in trauma cases involving preventable injuries.

Here are some tips to help you stay safe during this Thanksgiving.

#1 – Pay close attention to your hands when using cutting tools.

Some of the most common injuries seen during Thanksgiving involve kitchen cutting tools like knives, mandolins, graters, blender blades, and peelers. These cutting injuries normally occur when someone is not paying attention to the placement of their fingers before cutting.

Avoid distractions like talking to others, watching television, or trying to multitask multiple cooking tasks. Scheduling your food preparation and cooking times in advance may help reduce stress and allow you to properly pace yourself.

Keep all sharp objects away from counter ledges and away from children. When passing cutting tools like knives or scissors to others, be sure to practice extra caution and ensure the person receiving the cutting tool has a good handle to prevent dropping it.

When clearing out a blender, make sure it is unplugged from the wall and pay close attention to the blades.

Mandolins are notorious for fingertip injuries, so we recommend you refrain from using them unless they offer special safety features to prevent accidental cuts.

If you are using a peeler, make sure you have a good handle on the food you are peeling. Some food, such as potatoes and cucumbers can be slippery and cumbersome to hold.

Lastly, many kitchen sinks have a garbage disposal installed to grind up scraps and other food waste for easy disposal down the drain. Sometimes these garbage disposals can get clogged up. Avoid putting your fingers down the drain. Make sure the electrical switch controlling the garbage disposal is in the “off” position before unclogging the drain. 

#2 – Practice extra caution around stovetops, ovens, hotplates, pots, and pans to avoid burns.

Treat any cooking surfaces with caution or assume all pots and pans are hot. Many Thanksgiving injuries involve burns from handling very hot objects without the proper protection like oven mitts. Be sure to keep small children away from the kitchen to avoid burning curious hands.

If your home has an electric stovetop, always make sure all knobs are in the off position when not in use.

When boiling water or using cooking oil, be sure to keep a close eye to avoid boil over or accidentally knocking over a pot or pan.

Look around before opening or closing the oven, and always using proper protection to avoid burns.

If you or someone does get burned, cool it down with water. Do not use ice. Cover the burn with an antibiotic ointment. Don’t use home remedies like butter or lard. If the burn blisters or covers a large portion of skin, make sure to seek medical attention at an emergency room or urgent care facility.

#3 – Do not drink and drive.

One of the more tragic and completely preventable traumas we see at Jamaica Hospital is a motor vehicle crash due to drunk driving. While sharing memories and food with alcohol is a staple of a Thanksgiving dinner, no one should be getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when they are inebriated.

Drunk driving accounts for nearly 500 deaths each year during the Thanksgiving holiday.[1]  Do not be a statistic. Keep yourself, your family, your friends, and others on the road safe.

If you see someone at your home over drinking or inebriated, ask them to slow down. Have your guests’ addresses readily available ahead of time in case they need to take a cab, Uber, or Lyft back home.

If possible, have someone your trust in charge of pouring or mixing drinks for your guests. Having one person keep track of the number of times someone asks for a refill will help you identify who needs to be cut off from further indulging in alcohol consumption.

#4 – Make your home a fall free zone.

If you have older adults visiting for Thanksgiving, such as grandparents, great-grandparents, or anyone over the age of 65, be sure to make your home easy to navigate and clutter-free. One in four older adults age 65 and older experience a fall each year in the United States. Falls are responsible for most injuries and fatalities in the senior population.

Some ways to prevent falls in your home are keeping all pathways clear of wires, books, shoes, or throw-rugs, keeping hallways and all rooms well illuminated, and checking in with seniors to see how they feel after dinner as they may feel tired.

We encourage you and your guests to keep a close eye on seniors to notice if they are acting strangely or require assistance getting to a bathroom, walking up or downstairs, or getting up or sitting down at their seats.

#5 – Follow all instructions carefully when deep-frying a turkey.

In recent years, deep-frying a turkey has become a more common cooking method on Thanksgiving. While a deep-fried turkey does sound delicious, it can be dangerous if used incorrectly leading to serious injuries.

If you do decide to deep-fry a turkey this year, make sure you are wearing protective gear and wearing flame-retardant clothing. Wear long sleeves and use safety goggles to prevent oil splatter injuries.

Only deep-fry a turkey outdoors with plenty of space – at least 10 feet away from your home and away from any low hanging branches. The deep-fryer must be placed on a flat and leveled surface away from flammables. Always have a fire extinguisher on hand in case a fire breaks out.

Follow all instructions carefully when using the deep-fryer. Do not overfill the deep-fryer with oil. Too much oil can lead to overflow and splashing, leading to fires or burns. Never leave the deep-fryer unsupervised. You must make sure your turkey is completely defrosted before putting it into the deep-fryer. Failing to do so can lead to a fire and serious injury.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.