Thanksgiving Dinner dishes on a table

Thanksgiving Food Safety by Meagan Garibay, RN-BSN, CIC, Infection Preventionist Comanche County Memorial Hospital

With Thanksgiving not too far away, everyone is beginning to have visions of turkey legs and mashed potatoes dancing in their heads. Unfortunately, that Thanksgiving meal can come back to haunt you if it is cooked or stored improperly. Here are some tips to keep you on the couch with a full belly instead of a sick one!

 

THAWING A TURKEY SAFELY

  • Always keep your turkey in the freezer until you’re ready to thaw it, and in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it.

  • When you’re ready to thaw it, there’s a few different methods you can follow for safe thawing:

    • The refrigerator is the safest and most recommended method for thawing your bird. The rule of thumb is to allow 24 hours for every 4–5 pounds. Once it is thawed, it will keep just fine in the fridge for an additional 1–2 days before it needs to be cooked. It is recommended you place the turkey in a large dish on the bottom shelf of your refrigerator to prevent raw turkey juices from leaking over other foods. Example: A 20 pound turkey needs at least 4 days to thaw in the fridge, and is safe in the fridge for up to a week. This turkey is safe to go in to the fridge on the Friday before Thanksgiving.

    • Using cold water to thaw a turkey is a bit more labor intensive, but it’s faster than the fridge method. Submerge the frozen turkey in cold water and change the cold water every 30 minutes. Thawing times will vary based on how large your turkey is. A turkey thawed using this method must be cooked immediately after thawing is complete. Do not use lukewarm, warm, or hot water for this method — it may thaw the bird faster, but it will also increase the danger of food-borne illness.

    • Using the microwave to thaw the turkey is the fastest method and is acceptable, but it is the least recommended method. To use this method, you would place the frozen turkey in the microwave (if it fits!) and use the defrost setting, based on weight of the turkey (in general, it will take about 6 minutes per pound). A turkey thawed using this method must be cooked immediately after thawing is complete.

  • Other methods, such as thawing the turkey on the countertop, are not recommended — the risk of food-borne illness goes up considerably when using these methods.

  • Can you cook a frozen turkey? Absolutely! If your turkey is just a little frozen on Thanksgiving morning, it will take just a little longer to cook. A frozen solid turkey will take about 50% longer to cook than a thawed turkey. 

  • Turkey should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the temperature at the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the turkey breast. 

 

GENERAL FOOD SAFETY GUIDELINES

  • The “danger zone” for food is between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When perishable food (cooked or uncooked) sits out for longer than 2 hours in this temperature range, your risk of getting a food-borne illness from eating that food goes up. Stick food in the refrigerator within 2 hours to keep everybody safe from getting sick!

  • Ensure food, especially meats, are cooked to the recommended internal temperature.

  • Wash your hands frequently — especially when handling raw foods, and after using the bathroom.

 

woman blowing dandelion in summer

Summer Safety

The summer season is a special time for many of us. There are holidays, outdoor activities and lots of sunshine to enjoy. However, during the summer, there are some unique safety concerns all should take to heart. Here are our top tips to help you enjoy a beautiful, relaxing, and injury free summer!

 

Boating safety 

 

Many boating accidents begin with alcohol, but water and alcohol really don’t mix well! Avoid drinking alcohol and boating to prevent injuries like drowning and boat collisions. 

 

Don’t be lax about lifejackets either. Make sure you have proper fitting life jackets for all passengers. Children and those who cannot swim especially should never go without their life jackets while boating. 

 

Also make sure you know what to do in case of a water accident. Visit the American Heart Association website at Heart.org to learn where you can take courses in CPR and First Aid training. These classes are simple, and you never know when you may help save a life! 

 

Driving safety 

 

Operating a motor vehicle after drinking is, of course, also a bad idea. If your summer plans include a road trip, take breaks every few hours to avoid fatigue while driving. Also, avoid driving after midnight. 

 

Avoid harmful insects 

 

To avoid bees, mosquitoes and other insects,  avoid wearing heavy perfumes, especially floral scents, wear light-colored clothing free of floral patterns, and keep a lid on sugary drinks like sodas. For mild insect bite reactions, patients may take acetaminophen for pain and an antihistamine for swelling. 

 

Seek emergency care when the following symptoms are present: 

 

Difficulty breathing

Hives, itchiness, and swelling over large areas of the body

Swelling of the face or tongue

Dizziness or feeling faint 

 

Hydrate 

 

Dehydration and heat stroke are common problems in the summer months, although, both can be easily prevented. Ensure everyone has plenty of water when spending time outdoors, take breaks in the shade whenever possible, and try to plan outdoor activities in the early morning or evening to avoid the hottest part of the day.  

 

Some of the symptoms of heat stroke include:

 

a core temperature of 104F or higher

confusion

rapid heart rate and breathing

headache 

nausea or vomiting

 

If you fear someone may be experiencing heat stroke or severe dehydration, call 911. Get the individual indoors as soon as possible, cool them with ice packs or wet washcloths, give them water and have them lie down while you wait for emergency assistance. 

 

Cover up

 

Sunlight can be dangerous for your eyes and skin. Wear sunglasses that filter out UV light. Stay in the shade, wear hats and apply sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage every two hours while outdoors. 

 

Prevent food poisoning 

 

Picnic season is often when many individuals encounter food poisoning. To avoid it, practice the following: 

 

Clean your hands and the surfaces where you are preparing food well.

Keep raw meats wrapped and away from other food items. 

Have a meat thermometer with you for grilling to ensure meat reaches a safe internal temperature. 

Keep everything cool as long as possible. Store perishable picnic foods in an insulated cooler of ice. Keep whatever you will eat last at the bottom of the cooler. 

 

 

We hope you enjoy a safe and happy summer. If you need emergency medical care however, we’re here for you at the Drewry Family Emergency Center at Comanche County Memorial Hospital!

 

 

Disclaimer 

 

The Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not provide specific medical advice for individual cases. Comanche County Memorial Hospital does not endorse any medical or professional services obtained through information provided on this site, articles on the site or any links on this site.

Use of the information obtained by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not replace medical advice given by a qualified medical provider to meet the medical needs of our readers or others.

While content is frequently updated, medical information changes quickly. Information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies or typographical errors. For questions or concerns, please contact us at contact@ccmhhealth.com.