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Most common Thanksgiving injuries to avoid

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, 7 min read

Most common Thanksgiving injuries to avoid

Some Thanksgiving Day celebrations come with at least a little bit of drama. At the very least, most of us expect family squabbles at some point over the Thanksgiving weekend. While pointless arguments with loved ones are the height of holiday season drama for some, many unlucky people also end up in the emergency room on Thanksgiving due to common accidents and injuries that can often be avoided.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common thanksgiving injuries and how to avoid them.

Car Accidents

Thanksgiving is a time to spend with loved ones and it makes sense that millions of people across the country choose to travel for this holiday in order to be with family and friends. With increased travel, however, comes an increased risk of accidents.

According to the National Safety Council, car travel has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. And, with alcohol consumption generally higher around the holidays, this risk can increase. In fact, in 2019, 29% of Thanksgiving Day traffic fatalities involved a driver who was under the influence.

How to reduce thanksgiving day road fatalities

One of the most important things you can do in order to reduce this risk is to wear a seatbelt. Some studies show that seatbelts are 45% effective in reducing traffic fatalities in front-seat passengers. This could mean that hundreds of lives could be saved every Thanksgiving simply by wearing a seatbelt.

Other guidance includes:

  • Adhering to speed limits
  • Putting all children aged 12 and under in the back seat
  • Not driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (including some prescription medication)
  • Stop driving and rest if you become groggy or sleepy while driving


According to the US Fire Administration, cooking fires occur more often on Thanksgiving Day than on any other day of the year. In a report dating from 2017-2019, an estimated 2,300 residential building fires were reported on Thanksgiving Day, resulting in an annual average of 5 deaths, 25 injuries, and $26 million worth of property loss.

How to avoid cooking fires

When it comes to home cooking fires, unattended cooking is by far the biggest contributing factor. Some top tips for reducing this risk include:

  • Staying in the kitchen while food is cooking on the stovetop
  • Not leaving your home while the turkey (or any other food) is in the oven
  • Set a timer for the oven so you don’t forget
  • Test your smoke alarms before you start cooking
  • Limit (or eliminate) your alcohol intake when cooking
  • If using a turkey fryer, make sure the turkey is properly defrosted before cooking
  • Fry the turkey outside, away from the house or any flammable materials, and in a safe area away from children and pets
  • Have a fire extinguisher on hand just in case

Burn Injuries and Other Cooking Accidents

House fires aren’t the only risk when it comes to kitchen activities on Thanksgiving. In fact, some of the most common Thanksgiving accidents involve cuts, scrapes, and burns from things like turkey fryers.

Some common Thanksgiving injuries in the kitchen include:

  • Burns from the oil in the turkey fryer
  • Back injuries from transporting turkey and other dishes in and out of the oven
  • Scalding from boiling water
  • Burns from grabbing hot pans and trays
  • Cuts and accidents from knives (chopping vegetables, carving turkey, etc) – make sure anyone using a knife knows the proper way to cut and slice the food.

Top kitchen safety tips for Thanksgiving

Some top tips for reducing the risk of these kinds of injuries include:

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect from splattering oil
  • Wear oven gloves
  • Keep children away from a hot stove
  • Keep knives and electric cables for kitchen appliances out of reach of children
  • Use sharp knives to prevent slip injuries
  • Slice away from your palms and fingers to prevent cuts and accidents

Another great way to reduce injury risks and lower your overall stress levels on Thanksgiving Day is to limit the number of people in the kitchen at any one time. As nice as it is to have some happy helpers, the phrase “too many cooks” also applies. Make sure the kitchen isn’t overcrowded and that everyone who is cooking knows what they are doing. Developing a set time that each person should prepare their dish may decrease kitchen traffic.

Slip or Fall Injuries

Whether it’s by rushing around grocery stores, battling through the crowds in packed retail stores on Black Friday, or running around the pool at a friend’s house, slips and falls are common personal injury events around Thanksgiving.

How to avoid these common Thanksgiving injuries

The best way to avoid slip and fall injuries is to pay attention to where you are walking. Avoiding Black Friday chaos might be the best course of action but if you must head to the stores on the busiest day of the year, remember to take your time and do not rush.

If you are hosting friends and family, you can reduce the risk of slips and falls by keeping the house clean and clear of clutter. Make sure there are no wet floors and that any potential hazards are dealt with before guests arrive. And if a hazard cannot be corrected in time, warn everyone so they can avoid a potential accident.

Food Poisoning

The unsafe handling or undercooking of food can lead to food poisoning, in particular can include germs such as Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, or Campylobacter. Old methods and family traditions for preparing turkeys that have been passed down over generations can also be problematic. For example, washing or rinsing turkeys before cooking is against federal food safety advice, but many people continue to do it which often results in sickness.

Top tips for avoiding turkey food poisoning

The best way to minimize the risk of food poisoning is to follow the CDC’s guidelines for preparing turkey. Some of these include:

  • Freezing turkeys in environments where you can closely monitor and control temperature (i.e use freezers as opposed to leaving it in the snow on the back porch)
  • Keep your turkey in its original wrapping when thawing in the fridge (to avoid juices dripping on and contaminating other food)
  • Washing your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before handling turkey
  • Using a separate cutting board for handling raw turkey
  • Never putting cooked food or fresh produce on a surface that held raw turkey
  • Washing any utensils, dishes, and surfaces that came into contact with raw turkey thoroughly using hot soapy water
  • Making sure the turkey is cooked thoroughly before serving
  • Following directions provided by the poultry supplier regarding the weight of the particular turkey and recommended cooking time and temperature.

If you are in doubt about any of your turkey cooking practices, check the CDC website for detailed advice.

Sports Injuries

While family football games are a staple of many Thanksgivings, they can sometimes lead to problems such as sprains and muscular issues. While these might be the most common injuries, some Thanksgiving Day games can result in more serious injuries that require urgent care such as concussions and brain injuries.

How to avoid injury from Thanksgiving Day sports games

The best way to avoid problems is to keep things friendly and avoid tackling (playing touch football instead). Other top tips include:

  • Warm up and do some dynamic stretching before the game
  • Wear protective padding (particularly if you are playing tackle football)
  • Don’t play if you are physically unwell or in bad physical shape

Worried About an Injury You Sustained Over Thanksgiving?

If you or a loved one have been injured over the Thanksgiving period, it’s important to seek medical advice. Some issues such as severe burns, concussions, brain injuries, excessive smoke inhalation, or deep lacerations require emergency assistance. In this case, call 911 or head to the emergency room.

If your injury is not urgent but you want to get checked out, make an online appointment with the Babylon health care team today.

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  1. National Safety Council 
  2. US Fire Administration
  3. US Fire Administration
  4. National Fire Protection Association
  5. CDC

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.

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