WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As it usually is, Thanksgiving Day will likely be a busy one for emergency services personnel as they anticipate a spike in emergency calls for fires, injuries and traffic incidents.
New Hanover Regional EMS Captain Steven Howell said the calls start rolling in as people take to their kitchens or head out on the roads to visit loved ones.
Howell said the major issues are:
- Grease fires and burns from frying turkeys
- Injuries from improper knife skills
- Food-borne illness from poultry or improper storage
- Injuries from vehicle crashes
- Stress-induced heart and panic attacks or other conditions
- Allergic reactions
Accidents in the kitchen are the leading cause of injury and emergency calls on Thanksgiving, Howell said, as people who might not normally prepare such an extravagant feast cook for their friends and families.
Howell said deep cuts and lacerations from improper knife skills are probably the most common injury since many people are unfamiliar with breaking down a turkey or don’t have the correct equipment.
“We always recommend people, when you’re going to cut a turkey, carve it in the kitchen on a hard, flat surface. Leave the knives in the kitchen," Howell said. "That way you don’t reach and grab it on accident and also, make sure you’re very careful when you’re using them because a lot of knives we get for Thanksgiving, they are a lot sharper than we’re used to handling.”
Another major driver of Thanksgiving-related injuries is heat, Howell said, either from the stove or a deep fryer.
As more people experiment with frying turkeys, he said, grease fires and burns are becoming more common.
When frying a turkey, care should be taken that the bird is completely thawed and there is not too much oil in the pot. Having a fire extinguisher on hand at all times is recommended as water will only exacerbate a grease fire.
For stove-top cooking, Howell said to be sure to turn handles away from the edge to prevent contact burns and spills. This is especially true if there are children in the kitchen or your space is cramped.
Illness is another common reason people head to the emergency room on Thanksgiving, Howell said.
“Other things we see are cases of food poisoning where people have not cooked their turkeys enough,” he said.
Salmonella and other bacterial infections can be brought on by poor handling of poultry like turkey. Not cooking the bird to the recommended 165 degrees Fahrenheit can also cause illness.
Howell said keeping surfaces clean and cooking everything to the proper temperature is the best way to prevent food poisoning.
Once the meal is over, Howell said leftovers should be put in the refrigerator as soon as possible, and eaten within two to three days.
“We also will have people that will end up in the next few days," he said, referring to the emergency room. "People are eating leftovers of course, and people aren’t refrigerating them accordingly. Within two hours of cooking and eating, you want to put your leftovers up.”
If anyone attending the Thanksgiving meal has food allergies, Howell said caution should be taken to avoid allergens, and if things like nuts or dairy are used, things are labeled accordingly.
Vehicle crashes are frequent as travel increases during the days immediately before and after Thanksgiving, and the extra merriment can lead people to drive under the influence. Expert agencies such as AAA estimate this Thanksgiving will see the highest travel levels since 2005, and Howell said people should also take care to stay safe on the roads.
By staying alert and taking a few extra minutes to double check, Howell said most visits from his EMS team can be avoided. However, he said not to hesitate to call 911 if emergency attention is needed.