Thanksgiving health hazards to watch out for in 2018

Thanksgiving health hazardsCC: TerriC at Unsplash

Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving? While that may seem like a silly question coming from a Brit, my closest friend (who happens to come from Florida) treated us all to a Thanksgiving dinner last year. Now that the day is rolling around again, I’ve started to think about Thanksgiving health hazards.

Much like New Year’s Eve worldwide and Boxing Day here in the UK, Thanksgiving features a unique set of health risks you might want to watch out for. If you’re prepared to enjoy your turkey without a side dish of medical interventions, keep reading.

The commonest Thanksgiving health hazards: food poisoning and reflux

While most people are adept at cooking poultry throughout the year, Thanksgiving brings a unique challenge: cooking for large numbers of people. From correctly defrosting a large bird to thoroughly cooking big pieces of meat, there’s plenty of scope for culprits such as salmonella to wreak havoc. If you’re particularly unlucky, poor food handling techniques could result in Campylobacter.

If you want to avoid a 2018 dose of food poisoning, learn how to defrost everything correctly. Food Safety has a comprehensive guide to making sure you keep food poisoning at bay.


Now, for one of the less serious Thanksgiving health hazards: reflux. We all know why it’s going to happen – because of over-indulging. Arguably, a yearly bout of reflux isn’t going to cause much harm. To enjoy a comfortable day, opt for a Proton Pump Inhibitor and/or recognize your limits.

Binge drinking while celebrating Thanksgiving

Let’s face it, a well-cooked meal + a celebration often = alcohol. Each year, the alcohol industry makes $49-billion in profit. Around a quarter of that profit comes from the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Worryingly, DUI crashes rise in some states over the holiday period. Accidents aside, if you drink yourself beyond a state of consciousness, you may wake up to a doctor who doesn’t look like Derek Shepherd or Doug Ross.

Fortunately, it is possible to enjoy the day without participating in a DUI crash or swallowing charcoal in the ER. Ways to indulge in your favorite alcoholic drink of choice safely include:

  • Know your limits. For most adults, this one is easy.
  • For every alcoholic drink you consume, have a glass of water.
  • Check your current medications to make sure you can drink with them safely.
  • Don’t drink and drive, ever. Book a cab, designate a sober driver, or stay for the night.

On that last point, you may want to consider using a Blood Alcohol Calculator to make sure you’re fit to climb behind the wheel the next day. The amount of time it takes for alcohol to leave your system may surprise you!

Thanksgiving fires and their consequences

As one of the least thought about Thanksgiving health risks, fires occur in around 2,400 residential buildings each year. From those 2,400 fires comes roughly 25 injuries and four deaths. While those numbers may seem small, they’re still significant.

The deadliest fires are the ones that go undetected until it’s too late. In many cases, the smoke will kill or cause damage before the flames do. So, your best asset here is a fully-operational fire alarm. And, while you’re upping your safety game, add a carbon monoxide detector to your kitchen.

Other ways to reduce the risk of fires include keeping pets and children out of the kitchen, designating a place for flammable materials, and checking on slow-cooking food regularly. In addition to reducing your fire risk, the food is less likely to overcook.

Fortunately, most Thanksgiving health hazards are entirely preventable. And the good news is you can enjoy a day of indulging without any harms!

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.