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Get back together? Tips for a safe and healthy Thanksgiving

For families who have settled for smaller gatherings and distant blessings during the height of the pandemic, this Thanksgiving looks like the return of the big party.

More people are getting together this year, and the American Automobile Association is forecasting vacation travel will almost return to pre-pandemic levels.

If that’s the case in your home, it might have been a while since you’ve faced a frozen turkey or remembered which cousins ​​shouldn’t be sitting together.

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


The big bird is the center of most Thanksgiving meals, but it’s important to handle raw poultry properly to avoid spreading bacteria that can send your guests home with an unwanted side of food poisoning. Defrost safely. According to the Department of Agriculture, one frozen turkey takes about 24 hours to thaw for every 4 to 5 pounds it weighs. In a pinch, it can be thawed in a cold water bath or even in the microwave, but it must be cooked immediately when using these methods. And don’t wash the turkey. Flushing it down the sink is a bad idea, a practice that can spread potentially dangerous germs like salmonella to nearby areas, said Jennifer Quinlan, a professor of nutrition science at Drexel University who studies consumer habits when handling turkey examined. Instead, pat the turkey dry with kitchen paper and transfer it to the skillet.


The best way to make sure your turkey is fully cooked and has an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit is to use a meat thermometer, said Lisa Shelley, a food safety researcher at North Carolina State University. Don’t count on golden brown skin or the color of the turkey juices. After serving the turkey, make sure you refrigerate it and any other leftovers — mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes — within two hours. “Really, set a timer when you erase everything,” Quinlan suggested. “You’ll be surprised how quickly two hours goes by.”

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


Certain holidays are known for certain injuries, and Thanksgiving is no exception, said Dr. Christopher Kang, President of the American College of Emergency Physicians. Carve carefully. Slicing up a turkey is a lot harder than it looks, Turkey Day injuries show. “With any cutting and carving, we always see a lot of hand injuries and finger injuries,” said Kang, an emergency medical technician in Tacoma, Washington. Make sure the carving knife is sharp and never cut towards yourself, always cut away. Don’t put your hand under the blade to catch a slice of meat.

Be careful, turkey fryer burns. Fried turkey might sound delicious, but it’s a dangerous dish for home cooks to prepare. The fryers can tip over and spill – and the combination of a frozen or not fully thawed turkey and hot oil can cause an explosion. Even if that doesn’t happen, Kang said he’s seen many painful scald injuries caused by hot oil.


Thanksgiving gatherings also trigger a surge in other ER visits as generations gather and exchange 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 susceptible to some infections; older people are more vulnerable to others. “What age group is not at risk?” Kan said. To reduce the risk of infection and serious illness, ensure all beneficiaries are up to date on vaccinations. Ask people with symptoms of illness – including “allergies” or “just a cold” – to stay at 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, run a portable air purifier. To protect the most vulnerable guests, consider wearing masks indoors.


Hosting — or attending — a Thanksgiving holiday event after nearly three years of a turbulent pandemic can be challenging. According to the American Psychological Association, it’s important to have realistic expectations — and to plan ahead to avoid known family pitfalls. Take time for yourself. Despite the stress of your holiday, don’t give up your healthy routine. If you normally exercise, make time for a long walk, APA experts say: “Think about aspects of your life that bring you joy.” Set boundaries beforehand. If you’re concerned about conflict or heated discussions at your holiday table, the APA suggests making sure everyone knows Thanksgiving is a time to focus on “gratitude, appreciation and all you have, including each other.” .