6 Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy and Safe This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time of cherished family traditions, but the memories are sweeter when everyone stays safe and healthy. As medical director of Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care, my team and I treat people of all ages over the holidays for everything from cuts and burns to sport-related sprains and food poisoning.

Here are 6 tips for avoiding common accidents and illness during the holidays:  

1. Care for cooking burns

The holiday kitchen is full of opportunities for cooking burns. So how do you assess and treat a burn? First, run the burnt area under lukewarm or cool water (not icy cold, as this can cause more damage) for 10 to 15 minutes and then check the burn for size and color. Most cooking burns can be treated with soothing creams like aloe and over-the-counter pain medications. But immediate medical care should be sought for burns larger than 1-2 inches, those in sensitive areas, or for charred skin that’s white, brown, leathery or shiny. And remember to keep pets and little ones out of the busy holiday kitchen!

2. Prevent food poisoning

You may know about salmonella, but have you heard of Clostridium perfingens? It’s the so-called “buffet germ” that grows fastest in large portions like casseroles, gravies and any food left sitting at room temperature. Both types of bacteria will give you tummy trouble. So, never wash your bird, cook your turkey and stuffing to at least 165⁰ F and keep food at 140⁰ or warmer or 40⁰ or cooler if it’s not being eaten right away. Make your stuffing outside the bird for an even safer option. If you suspect food poisoning, drink lots of fluids, including electrolytes.

3. Know your knife safety protocols

Holidays bring out the chef in everyone, but some people at the counter may not have proper knife skills. More than 1/3 of knife-related injuries happen in the kitchen, and one in 10 ER visits is related to a hand injury. Protect your fingers by using sharp knives, as dull blades require more pressure to cut. Curl your fingers and cut away from your body when trimming or deboning. And don’t forget to wash and store your knives immediately after use to reduce the chance of injury.

4. Practice safe hygiene

Whether you’re trying to prevent food poisoning or the flu, the number one hygiene recommendation is to wash your hands. The rules always bear repeating: wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds before and after touching your eyes, nose or mouth, prepping food, eating a meal or using the restroom.

5. Sick-season protocols

Fall and winter are peak cold-flu-RSV-COVID season, so consider establishing new protocols for guests like checking vaccine statuses. You can also request guests to take rapid COVID-19 tests in advance of attendance. If your group has any high-risk individuals, you can consider even more rigorous testing protocols like PCR tests available at Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care centers. Ask guests to screen themselves for any cold, flu, RSV or COVID symptoms and stay home for even mild symptoms. And masks are always helpful in curtailing transmissions.

6. Limit alcohol intake

Alcohol greatly increases the risk of holiday injuries. Consider this: DUI offenders being monitored for alcohol consumption increase their intake by 33% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Drinking alcohol reduces your ability to properly manage everything from kitchen knives and turkey fryers to your vehicle. Consider including mocktails, sparkling waters and other alcohol-free options as part of your celebratory activities and offerings to your guests.

With a little care and caution, this holiday season will be one to remember for all the right reasons. If you or your family members do need care, please visit one of 12 Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care centers across Oregon and Washington. They’ll be open every day.  Visit https://www.gohealthuc.com/legacy for more information.

Dr. Christian Molstrom
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