Safety at Thanksgiving during the COVID-19 Pandemic

 The holiday meal and its preparation is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving celebration and safe food handling in the kitchen is very important! There are many more safety guidelines to keep in mind this year due to our current pandemic. It is wise to follow all state directed health measures this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in six Americans (48 million) will become ill from a food-borne illness this year. The following tips will help guard against food poisoning.

 DO…

  • DO ask all kitchen helpers to wash their hands using warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • DO keep turkey in its original wrapping, refrigerated until ready to cook.
  • DO defrost a frozen turkey by refrigeration or cold running water.
  • DO allow one day for every 4-5 pounds to defrost in the refrigerator. In a cold water bath, change the water every 30 minutes.
  • DO use a meat thermometer to check if turkey is done. The turkey should cook until the internal temperature reaches a safe minimum of 165˚ F.
  • DO store the turkey and stuffing separately.
  • DO store leftover turkey in the refrigerator and use within 3-4 days.
  • DO store leftover stuffing and gravy in the refrigerator and use within 1-2 days.

DON’T…

  • DON’T defrost a turkey at room temperature. Bacteria can multiply to unsafe numbers on outer layers before inner layers have defrosted.
  • DON’T leave an uncooked thawed turkey out of the refrigerator longer than two hours.
  • DON’T rinse your turkey before cooking. Let the cooking process take care of the bacteria and avoid the risk of cross contamination.
  • DON’T set your oven lower than 325˚ F.
  • DON’T prepare food if you are sick or have a nose or eye infection.
  • DON’T leave leftovers out on the counter longer than two hours.
  • DON’T re-freeze a completely thawed uncooked turkey.
  • DON’T stuff turkeys as it makes it difficult for the internal temperature to reach 165°F within a safe period of time. If you must stuff your turkey, stuff it lightly before cooking and leave room for the oven to cook the interior of the turkey and stuffing.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public.

Call 1-800-222-1222 to speak directly with a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center will unite with the nation’s other 54 poison centers to celebrate the 58th Annual National Poison Prevention Week on March 15-21, 2020, a week dedicated to raising awareness about poisoning in the U.S. and highlighting ways to prevent it. Each year, more than 2 million poisonings are reported to the Nation’s poison centers, which can be reached by calling 1-800-222-1222. The Poison Center is staffed by specially trained health care professionals including Registered Nurses, Pharmacists and Physicians.

Poisons are all around us and can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time of life. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 93 percent of poisonings happen at home, and 45 percent of poisonings involve children under the age of 6. The majority of fatal poisonings occur among adults, especially older adults.  Many poisonings are preventable and expert help is just a phone call away.

Here are some poison prevention tips to protect yourself and your family:

  • Program the toll-free number for the Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) into your cell phone or text “poison” to 797979 to save the contact information. Post the toll-free number visibly in your residence as well.
  • Always put medicines and vitamins away after every use. It may be tempting to keep the medicine handy because you have to give another dose in a few hours, but children are very quick and may attempt to swallow it, so it is best to store out of reach and sight.
  • Never refer to medicine as “candy” or another appealing name.
  • Always use the dosing device that comes with the medicine container.
  • If you have old, unused or expired medication call the Poison Center for assistance in locating a pharmacy that can take medication back.
  • Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Make sure there is one on every level of your home, especially around sleeping areas.  If the CO alarm sounds, leave your home immediately and move to a safe location outside where you can get fresh air.
  • Keep liquid nicotine products and cigarettes out of the reach of children. A small amount can be very poisonous to a child.
  • Be aware of where the disc batteries are in your home. They may be found in remote controls, key fobs, hearing aids, musical cards or books.  Curious toddlers will swallow these readily and are very dangerous if ingested.
  • Never mix household products together. For example, mixing bleach with an acid or an ammonia cleaner may result in a toxic gas.
  • Check your home (including garage) for cleaning supplies, laundry detergent packets, plants, personal care products, alcohol, pesticides, gasoline and medicine. Keep them out of sight or locked up.

The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is a free community service to the public.

When you call 1-800-222-1222, you will speak immediately to a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist 24/7/365.

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The Nebraska Regional Poison Center is only a phone call away.  Keep our phone number with you and your holiday guests.   Just a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Avoid putting purses near young children when you host, or are at a holiday party. There could be medicine or other poisonous items in purses readily available for a curious toddler.
  • Keep all medicines up high and out of reach.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages out of sight.  When guests leave pour out alcoholic beverages.

Call if you need immediate assistance, or even for questions: 1-800-222-1222.  You can also text “797979” to your smart phone-this will save the 800 number in your contacts.  You will talk immediately to a trained poison center specialist; either a Registered Nurse or Pharmacist.

Tis the season..but please be safe and enjoy this Holiday Season with friends and family!

The Fall season is here! The Nebraska Regional Poison Center would like to alert you to some potential hazards associated with these months.  We hope this will help reduce accidental poisonings in both adults and children.  Remember that prevention is the best antidote for poisonings.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas because it is colorless and odorless. Victims may be unaware of its effects until they are overcome by the fumes.  Cars with faulty mufflers may leak carbon monoxide.  This can be especially dangerous in the cool weather when cars are operating with windows closed.  Passengers in the back seat, usually children, most often are affected first.  Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache and nausea.  If these symptoms occur, take the victim to an Emergency Department.  Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur in the following situations: improperly functioning home heating systems with furnaces, wood stoves used in poorly ventilated rooms, or burning charcoal indoors.  Carbon monoxide detectors are recommended in every level of your home.  Detectors can save lives.

Antifreeze

Many antifreeze contain up to 95% ethylene glycol. If swallowed, small amounts of this chemical can cause severe illness and large amounts can lead to death.  Windshield washing fluid may contain methanol as well as ethylene glycol.  This chemical can produce blindness if ingested.  Antifreeze is marketed in attractive containers, has a sweet taste and a pretty color.  Be sure to store these containers in locked cabinets.  Never place antifreeze in an old food container for storage.  Rinse empty containers thoroughly and recap before discarding.  If you suspect that someone has ingested antifreeze, call the Nebraska Regional Poison Center immediately.

Plants and Berries

Both indoor and outdoor plants may be poisonous. It is helpful to know the names of your house plants and the plants and bushes in your yard.  Your local nurseries may be able to assist you in identifying them.  If a child does eat a berry, an outdoor mushroom, or a part of a plant, call the Nebraska Regional Poison Center.  We will ask you to identify the plant before we can make appropriate treatment recommendations.

Peppers

During this time of the year many families take to their kitchens and begin canning some of their favorite foods to enjoy during the winter months. But special care must be taken when handling hot peppers such as jalapeno, cherry, bell, cayenne, and chili.  Capsaicin, the oily chemical irritant found in these peppers, can cause irritation, redness and burning pain when handled.  The oil is spread easily, so avoid touching areas such as the eyes and face.  The best prevention is to wear rubber gloves while canning.  If you develop skin irritation while canning, call the Nebraska Regional Poison Center.

Salt

This is used on driveways, sidewalks and porches for traction and de-icing. Salt can be poisonous to young children who may ingest toxic amounts. Like any other poison, it should be stored out of reach of children.

Is Vaping Safe?

The short answer is no, vaping is not considered safe for teens and young adults, especially since their brains are still in a period of active development.

Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon so long-term studies of its impact on young adult health and behavior have yet to be conducted. The most comprehensive research to date is a report commissioned by Congress from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Released in January 2018, the report looked at exposure to nicotine and other toxic substances, dependence, harm reduction, smoking risks, cancer and more. Below are some key findings:

  • Exposure to nicotine is worrisome in teens and young adults because nicotine can be highly addictive. Due to the fact that the brain is undergoing massive changes during the teen years, nicotine use may rewire the brain, making it easier to get hooked on other substances and contribute to problems with concentration, learning and impulse control.
  • Most vape devices release a number of potentially toxic substances, although exposure is considerably lower than those found in regular cigarettes.
  • Dependence develops when the body adapts to repeated exposure to vaping. When a person stops vaping, he or she can experience withdrawal symptoms, although likely not as intense as with conventional cigarettes.
  • Vaping may be increasing risks of smoking. Teens and young adults who vape are almost four times as likely as their non-vaping peers to begin smoking cigarettes.
  • Injuries and poisonings have resulted from devices exploding and direct exposure to e-liquids.
  • Long-term studies are needed to evaluate the risks of cancer and respiratory illness, though there is some concern that vaping can cause coughing and wheezing and may exacerbate asthma.

Marijuana and Vaping

Devices and accessories designed for vaping marijuana are a booming business. Any marijuana use, whether vaped or otherwise, is a concern for adolescents and young adults. According to the CDC, marijuana use may have long-lasting permanent effects on developing adolescent brains. Negative effects include:

  • Difficulty with critical thinking skills like attention, problem-solving and memory
  • Impaired reaction time and coordination, especially as it relates to driving
  • Declines in school performance
  • Increased risk of mental health issues including depression or anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis where there is a family history

Be equipped with facts. Download the vaping guide for parents and read it over. Remain familiar with vape devices, what’s being vaped and the risks associates.

Have conversations. Opportunities to discuss vaping can present themselves in many ways: letters from the school, advertisements, seeing it on TV, walking by someone vaping or passing a vape shop. Be ready to listen rather than lecture. Try using an open-ended question like “What do you think about vaping?” to get the conversation going.

Convey your expectations. Express your understanding of the risks along with why you don’t want your child vaping. If you choose to set consequences, be sure to follow through while reinforcing healthier choices.

Be a good role model. Set a positive example by being vape and tobacco-free. If you do vape, keep your equipment and supplies secured.

What to Say When Your Teen Asks

Q: Isn’t vaping safer than smoking cigarettes?
Exposure to toxic substances may be reduced, but there are still significant concerns when replacing smoking cigarettes with vaping. One’s lungs are exposed to fine particles, metals, other toxins and nicotine which are all harmful. You may use the example that “Driving 90 miles an hour with a seat belt on is safer than without one, but neither is safe.” The same goes for vaping. And as with all substance use, ask your child why they’re interested in vaping in the first place.

Q: Everyone is doing it, why do you care?
You can say, “I know you might think this because of what you see in school or on social media, but the fact is that the majority of teens are choosing not to vape. It might be popular among some kids, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe.”

Q: You smoke, so why shouldn’t I?
If you’ve tried to quit, respond by saying something like, “You’re right, smoking is unhealthy and I’ve tried to quit and wish I had never started. I don’t want you to start an unhealthy habit and struggle the way I have.”