Thanksgiving is a day for intimidating dinner portions, uncomfortable political debates, and your uncle’s questionable sense of humor — but did you know that between car accidents, heart attacks, and cooking and serving mishaps, this joyous holiday is also America’s most dangerous day of the year?
Recent data from The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that in 2012 there were more car-related deaths on Thanksgiving Day than any other day in the year. Many of these deaths were attributed to drunk drivers and passengers not wearing their seat belts, but the potentially hazardous winter weather conditions in some parts of the country heighten the risk of an accident. That’s why it’s especially important on the day before Thanksgiving to clean your windshield wipers and check your tire pressure (and on Thanksgiving not to drink and drive).
Thanksgiving Day is also the unofficial beginning of heart-attack season. The stress of entertaining family members (or desperately attempting to explain to them the benefits of the graduate degree in comparative literature you're going for), in conjunction with an overindulgent meal can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure or heart disease. The consumption of large portions of heavy food and copious amounts of alcohol increases the likelihood of an emergency room visit, notes Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. A study of 1,986 heart attack survivors presented to the American Heart Association showed that the chances of having a heart attack quadrupled within two hours of having especially large meal.
The most treacherous aspects of Thanksgiving involve the kitchen itself, though. With amateur cooks attempting to hack through awkwardly shaped carrots, onions, and potatoes or the designated carver incorrectly wielding a large, sharp knife, a sliced finger seems almost inevitable. Thanksgiving food itself presents unique dangers. Turkey (like poultry in general) is often contaminated with salmonella and other dangerous bacteria, which can survive incomplete cooking (or lurk in the dressing cooked in the cavity of the bird), and any cutting board or knife that isn’t properly cleaned and sanitized is a potential source of danger. It’s always a good practice to designate one cutting board for poultry and to use a separate one for produce (not just on Thanksgiving but all the time.) Lukewarm side dishes sitting out on the buffet table too long can cause problems, too.
Don't let these warnings spoil the fun, though. Thanksgiving might statistically be the most dangerous day of the year, but with a little extra precaution you can certainly emerge from this joyous holiday with, at worst, a little bloating.