Meeting again? Tips for a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving

For families who settled for smaller gatherings and remote blessings during the height of the pandemic, this Thanksgiving feels like the return of the big holiday.

More people are flocking this year, and the American Automobile Association predicts vacation travel will nearly return to pre-pandemic levels.

If that’s the case at your house, it may have been a while since you’ve faced a frozen turkey or remembered which cousins ​​shouldn’t sit together.

To help you brush up on holiday basics, here are some tips to keep everyone safe, healthy, and sane:

FIRST, THE TURKEY

The big bird is the focus of most Thanksgiving meals, but it’s important to handle raw birds correctly to prevent the spread of bacteria that can send your guests home with unwanted food poisoning. Thaw safely. A frozen turkey needs about 24 hours to thaw for every 4 to 5 pounds of weight, according to the Department of Agriculture. In a pinch, it can be thawed in a cold water bath or even in a microwave, but it should be cooked immediately if you use those methods. And don’t wash the turkey. It’s a bad idea to rinse it in the sink, a practice that can spread potentially dangerous germs like salmonella to nearby areas, said Jennifer Quinlan, a Drexel University professor of nutrition sciences who has studied turkey handling habits. the consumers. Instead, pat the turkey dry with paper towels and place in the roasting pan.

COOK THOROUGHLY, REFRIGERATE IMMEDIATELY

The best way to make sure your turkey is fully cooked, to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, is to use a meat thermometer, said Lisa Shelley, who researches food safety at North Carolina State University. Don’t rely on golden skin or the color of turkey juices. Once you serve the turkey, be sure to refrigerate it along with all other leftovers (mashed potatoes, gravy, yams) within two hours. “Really, set a timer when you turn everything off,” Quinlan suggested. “You’ll be surprised how quickly two hours go by.”

And don’t skimp on cleaning. Wash your hands before preparing food and after handling raw poultry. But be sure to also consider countertops, cutting boards and any tools that may be contaminated, Shelley said. Clean with soap and water, then disinfect with bleach. “It’s a two-step process,” she said.

DANGER ZONES

Certain holidays are known for specific injuries, and Thanksgiving is no exception, said Dr. Christopher Kang, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Carve carefully. Slicing a turkey is a lot harder than it sounds, as Turkey Day injuries attest. “Always, with any cut and gouge, we see a lot of hand and finger injuries,” said Kang, an emergency room physician in Tacoma, Washington. Make sure the carving knife is sharp and never cut towards you, always out. Do not put your hand under the blade to catch a slice of meat.

Watch out, turkey fryer fires. Fried turkey may sound delicious, but it is a dangerous dish for home cooks to prepare. Fryers can tip over and spill, and the combination of a frozen or underdefrosted turkey and hot oil can create an explosion. Even when that doesn’t happen, Kang said he has seen many painful burn injuries caused by hot oil.

AVOID THE “TRIPLE-DEMIC”

Thanksgiving gatherings also prompt an increase in other ER visits as generations come together and swap germs. This year, the danger posed by COVID-19 and other viruses, including an early flu season and RSV, the respiratory syncytial virus, is an ongoing concern, Kang said. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to some infections; older people are more susceptible to others. “What age group is not at risk?” Kang said. To reduce the chances of infection and serious illness, make sure all eligible people are up-to-date on immunizations. Ask people who have any symptoms of illness, including “allergies” or “just a cold,” to stay home. Consider asking guests to take a rapid COVID-19 test before they show up. Make sure your home is well ventilated: open the windows, keep a portable air purifier running. To protect the most vulnerable guests, consider wearing masks indoors.

TAKE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH IN MIND

Hosting, or joining, a festive Thanksgiving event after nearly three years of a tumultuous pandemic can be challenging. According to the American Psychological Association, it’s important to have realistic expectations and plan ahead to avoid familiar family problems. Take time for yourself. Despite the pressure of the holidays, don’t forget your healthy routine. If you tend to exercise, make time for a long walk, say the APA experts: “Reflect on the aspects of your life that bring you joy.” Set limits in advance. If you’re worried about conflict or heated arguments at your holiday table, the APA suggests making sure everyone knows that Thanksgiving is a time to focus on “gratitude, appreciation, and all you have, including each other.” “.

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The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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