The Perspective

December 18, 2019

Be the Host with the Most this Holiday Season!

Practical Public Health Tips for Happy and Healthy Holiday Season
(Adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A Recipe for First Aid

For many, preparing holiday feasts and treats is one of the most important parts of the holiday season. Increased slicing, and dicing, and searing, and roasting can also lead to increased injuries during this time of year.
If you are one of your guests is cut or burned, it is a good idea to be prepared with basic first aid supplies and the know-how to use them. The CDC has an emergency wound care fact sheet to help you take care of wounds after a disaster, but the information is also helpful in all types of emergency situations.

Stayin' Alive

Approximately 350,000 cardiac arrests happen outside of hospitals each year. About 7 in 10 of those happen at home – maybe during the spirited white elephant exchange. Unfortunately, about half the people who experience cardiac arrest at home don’t get the help they need from bystanders before an ambulance arrives.
If someone experiences cardiac arrest, the first step is to always call 9-1-1. Once help is on the way, you can begin to administer “hands only” cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). If CPR is performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, it can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

Wet. Lather. Scrub. Rinse. Dry.

Handwashing involves five simple and effective steps that you can take to reduce the spread of germs, including those that cause food poisoning. Here’s how to wash your hands the right way:

Wet your hands with clean, running water. Turn off the tap and apply soap.

Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

The germs that cause foodborne illnesses can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen. By washing your hands at key times and cleaning cutting boards with hot, soapy water after every use, you can guard your holiday guests against germs like salmonella.

Don't Get "Done" In

The term “doneness” refers to the outward appearance of food. It has nothing to do with whether food, like turkey, has reached a safe internal temperature. An appetizing color and enticing smell are not proof that food is safe to eat. The only way to know if food is safe is to take its temperature.

It’s important to learn how to use and correctly read a food thermometer to make sure food reaches a temperature hot enough to kill germs. There are different kinds and combinations of food thermometers. Pick one that works for you.

Foodborne germs, like salmonella, can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in most cases; and more serious symptoms in pregnant women, children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

Food for Thought

Nothing will ruin a party faster than a guest having a sudden and severe allergic reaction to a holiday dish. If you are hosting a party, ask your guests if they have any allergies. If you can’t accommodate their needs, ask the guest or their parent to bring a dish that is safe for them to eat. If you are someone who doesn’t have a food allergy but hosts parties regularly, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has information on its website on how to read food labels and identify food allergens.
If you are someone who has a food allergy, ‘tis the season to make sure your auto-injectors and rescue medications are up-to-date and operational.

Where There's Smoke

Holiday decorations can increase your risk for a home fire. According to U.S. Fire Administration, candles start more than half of home decoration fires in December. You should never leave a lit candle unattended, and always place them at least 12 inches away from anything flammable. If possible it is strongly recommend you switch to flameless candles. 

Also, learn how to use and maintain a fire extinguisher to prepare for the possibility of a home fire.  Remember the acronym PASS. It stands for:

Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.

Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire.

Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.

Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

Choked Up

Know how to help someone who is choking. Giving abdominal thrusts is a method of applying pressure to remove an obstruction, like a piece of food, from a person’s windpipe. Along with hands-only CPR, knowing how to respond in a choking emergency is a basic life-saving skill that anyone can learn and teach to others.

If you suspect a person is choking and/or see someone giving the universal sign of choking—holding their neck with one or both hands—immediately take the following steps:

Ask the person if they are choking. DO NOT perform first aid if the person is coughing forcefully and is able to speak.

If they are unable to speak, perform abdominal thrusts:

  1. Stand behind the person and wrap your arms around the person’s waist. For a child, you may have to kneel.
  2. Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your fist just above the person’s navel, well below the breastbone.
  3. Grasp the fist tightly with your other hand.
  4. Make a quick, upward and inward thrust with your fist.
  5. Check if the object was dislodged.
  6. Continue thrusts until the object is dislodged or the person loses consciousness.
  7. Call 911 if the person loses consciousness. Always call 911 in a life-threatening emergency.

Have a last minute question about meat, poultry, or egg products? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline toll free at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST. Recorded messages are available 24 hours a day. Questions can also be e-mailed to To read answers to some Hotline “Panic Button” food safety questions, visit the USDA website.


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