6 reasons why Thanksgiving is one of the deadliest times of the year

Piedmont Triad News

(WGHP) — Kitchen fires. Car crashes. Heart attacks. Thanksgiving is one of the happiest holidays but also one of the deadliest times of year for many Americans.

The mortality rate in the United States spikes every year around Thanksgiving and remains elevated throughout the winter, according to the CDC.

The seasonal spread of the flu and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are both partially responsible for the increased death rate. Reuters reports that COVID alone reduced life expectancy in 2020 by the largest amount since World War II with the life expectancy of American men dropping by more than two years from the average life expectancy of 78.8 in 2019.

However, Thanksgiving stands out as particularly dangerous.

Here are six Turkey Day dangers to look out for and how to stay safe this season:

Flames burning (Getty Images)
Flames burning (Getty Images)

1.) Fires

An average of 1,800 cooking fires happen every Thanksgiving, which is three times the number on any other day of the year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

The top culprits are deep frying turkeys and unattended ovens.

It takes less than a minute for a turkey fryer to start a fire.

How to stay safe?

  • Check to make sure your oven is empty before turning it on.
  • Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when cooking.
  • Turn pot handles inward over the stove.
  • Remember to “stand by your pan” and stay in the kitchen when boiling, frying or broiling.
  • Keep children away from the stove
  • Use a timer when baking or roasting and never leave the house with the oven running.
  • The National Fire Protection Association strongly discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil. If you do use one, use it outside and as far away from the house as possible.
  • Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside bedrooms, at the top of open stairs and at the base of cellar stairs.
Truck overturned on highway and traffic jam (Getty Images)
Truck overturned on highway and traffic jam (Getty Images)

2.) Crashes

Millions of Americans travel all across the country to visit loved ones over the Thanksgiving holiday, and the increase in traffic means a greater chance of fatal crashes and injuries.

Over the 2019 Thanksgiving holiday weekend, 279 people were killed in crashes, according to the United States Department of Transportation.

During the day, 42% of those who were killed were not wearing seatbelts, and 54% of those killed at night were unbuckled.

Drunk driving is also a major contributing factor to holiday crashes.

Throughout the Thanksgiving holiday weekend from 2015-2019, around 800 people died in crashes that involved a drunk driver, and 135 drivers involved in fatal crashes on Thanksgiving Eve were drunk, the USDOT reports.

How to stay safe?

  • Buckle up.
  • Always use a designated driver or a ride-share app if you’ve been drinking.
  • Plan ahead to avoid rushing to your destination.
Man with chest pain (Getty Images)
Man with chest pain (Getty Images)

3.) Heart Attacks

A heavy meal can increase your risk of heart attack by about four times in the two hours after you’re done eating, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2000.

Researchers say eating a heavy meal may act as a trigger for a heart attack in a similar way to extreme physical activity and outbursts of anger, especially in someone who has heart disease.

Drinking alcohol while also eating the types of food we enjoy on Thanksgiving is partially related to the increased risk of heart attack as well since holiday food is typically heavy in salt.

How to stay safe?

  • Don’t overdo it.
  • If you have a heart condition, make sure you eat in moderation.
  • Make sure you carry all your relevant medications with you since they can be easier to forget while traveling.
Close up on EpiPen (Getty Images)
Close up on EpiPen (Getty Images)

4.) Food Allergies

Food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern.

Around 8% of children in the US are affected by food allergies, according to the CDC— that’s one in 13 children or about 2 students in every classroom.

The CDC reports that the prevalence of food allergies in children increased by 50% from 1997 to 2011.

Children with food allergies are two to four times more likely to have other related conditions as well such as asthma.

How to stay safe?

  • The eight most common food allergies are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans, so make sure you check with everyone at your Thanksgiving gathering to see if anyone is allergic to any of those.
  • If you have an allergy, make sure to carry your EpiPen.
  • It’s also important you tell anyone who may be cooking and preparing food that you have allergies.
Man dealing with stomach pain (Getty Images)
Man dealing with stomach pain (Getty Images)

5.) Food Poisoning

Handling uncooked poultry improperly is the main danger that contributes to food poisoning along with not knowing how dishes other people bring to your holiday feast were prepared.

The CDC says “handling poultry (chickens and turkey) incorrectly and undercooking it are the most common problems that lead to food-borne disease outbreaks linked to poultry.”

You may have done everything you can to avoid cross-contamination, but it’s difficult to be sure everyone has.

But food poisoning can still easily be avoided.

How to stay safe?

  • Thaw your turkey safely.
  • You can thaw it in the refrigerator in a container, in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes) or In the microwave, following the microwave oven manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter since bacteria can grow rapidly in the “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F.
  • Always wash your hands after handling raw meat.
  • Make sure your turkey is cooked thoroughly by using a meat thermometer. It should reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Encourage family members who are bringing food to be extra careful when cooking in their own homes as well.
Puppy inside crate (Getty Images)
Puppy inside crate (Getty Images)

6.) Pet Bites

While we may enjoy all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, Thanksgiving can be a difficult time for our furry family members.

Even if your pets are normally happy to see other people, strangers in the house and hectic activity can still make them anxious.

The American Veterinary Medical Association offers a few tips to keep your pets and relatives safe this season.

How to stay safe?

  • You can put your dog or cat in another room or crate with their favorite toy if you know they get anxious around guests. This will help with any difficult emotions they may be feeling and keep your guests from possibly getting injured.
  • Watch your pets closely. It’s especially important to watch them while you’re letting guests in and out of your home since they may try to run out while the door is open and get lost.
  • Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information, particularly a microchip with up-to-date information, just in case they do get out.
  • If you want to share a Thanksgiving treat with your pet, buy or make a treat specifically for them. Animals have trouble digesting fatty foods, and many things that are fine for us are poisonous for our pets such as onions, raisins and grapes.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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