Turkey trauma: Avoiding the emergency room on Thanksgiving

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Turkey in oven on fire.Safety tips for the holidays

Hanging lights and decor, throwing the pigskin, traveling and preparing foods in the kitchen for the holidays leave plenty of opportunities for families to get injured.   

Kevin Rix, injury prevention coordinator at University Medical Center Brackenridge, said being aware of possible hazards help to avoid the emergency room. Brackenridge is part of Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit health system and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

“Among the many incidents that occur during the holidays, some of the most dangerous happen in the kitchen and on the road,” Rix said.

Christopher Ziebell, MD, medical director of the emergency department at UMCB, said when serious injuries do happen, getting to a Level I trauma center like Brackenridge is critical. Brackenridge is staffed with trauma surgeons, emergency room doctors, anesthesiologists and sub-specialists, and is the only trauma center in the region to provide microsurgery and limb reattachment.

Safety tips

  • Food preparation. Watch out for burns. If you’re frying a turkey, give yourself plenty of room, cook it outside, measure oil in the pan and wear proper clothing like an apron, a long-sleeved shirt and pants. Limit people around the cooking area and be careful of kiddos playing nearby. Never attempt to deep fry a frozen bird.
  • Driving. About 48 million people will drive 50 miles or more from home for Thanksgiving, according to the American Automobile Association. With so many cars out, roads get risky. It’s common to feel rushed while driving during the holidays but it’s very important to slow down. Be patient with the traffic and allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Don’t drive while tired.
  • Sports. Some families love to throw the football around before or after turkey time. But beware of injuries for those not used to routine exercise. Pace yourself and stretch after the big meal to avoid sprains, strains and fractures.
  • Holiday decorations. Injuries because of ladder falls are common during Thanksgiving weekend. For “A” frame ladders, never step all the way onto the top of the ladder; instead, stop at the appropriately marked rung. Make sure the ladder is on a flat, dry and even surface, and don’t overreach. For extension ladders, keep your hips inside the rails and ensure the extension part of the ladder is locked in place. Support the ladder at its base, either with another person holding it in place or by driving a stake into the ground at the base.

For more tips, read the recently released recommendations from the American College of Emergency Physicians.