Thanksgiving Day Too Often Becomes a Day of Poisonings

Ten frequent calls shared below

The Poison Center at The University of Kansas Health SystemWhile families gather to celebrate a day of feasting, the phones will be ringing at The University of Kansas Health System Poison Control Center.

Thanksgiving is frequently Poison Center employees' least favorite holiday to work followed by the 4th of July. Why?

While about 100 calls is average on any given day, the Thanksgiving holiday brings in calls not fielded on a normal day. Most of the calls will focus on food preparation or children getting themselves into dangerous situations. Here are some of the top calls on Thanksgiving Day. Keep these calls as food for thought to maintain your guests' safety.

  1. “I put my turkey in the oven last night but forgot to turn on the oven. Can I still safely cook it?”
    No. Cold oven or countertop, start cooking the raw turkey within 2 hours or risk food poisoning.

  2. “How long should I cook my bird?"
    Follow the package directions or call Butterball at 1-800-288-8372 or FDA at 1-888-infoFDA

  3. “How long can my leftovers sit out?”
    Your meal should sit out only 2 hours or risk food poisoning. Hot food does not need to “cool” before refrigerating. Enjoy your meal and then put the leftovers immediately away.

  4. “I used oven cleaner before cooking my turkey, but forgot to wipe down the oven. Is the turkey safe to eat?”
    We have no data on this. The fumes from oven cleaner can make guests feel sick. It will definitely add oven cleaner flavoring to any food baked in that oven. We would recommend not eating the turkey.

  5. “One of my guests feels very sick, is it food poisoning?”
    If only one guest, it is most likely a case of over-eating. NOTE: Do not use home-remedy of baking soda to relieve indigestion. There have been serious and fatal results from doing this.

  6. “We were watching football and thought someone else was watching the kids. One has swallowed medicine found in a relative’s purse. What do we do?”
    Call Poison Control or seek medical help. Depending on the medicine, the amount eaten, and size of the child, this could be very serious. Be proactive, put guest purses and bags out of sight from children. Lock them in a room if possible. Use zip ties for cabinets or yard sticks through drawer handles to keep small children out of harm’s way. Children love to climb and explore … look around and child proof before company arrives. If traveling, consider buying a locking petty cash box for your medicines to keep children safe. Assign someone to watch children while game is on.

  7. “We left the room for just a moment, and one of the kids was caught drinking an alcoholic beverage left on the coffee table. What do we do?”
    Call Poison Control or seek medical help. Depending the on the amount and type of alcohol and the child’s weight, this could be very serious. Keep alcohol away from children and carry cocktails with you. Just like a designated driver, designate someone sober to watch children if guests consume alcohol.

  8. “One of the kids has come inside from playing outdoors and he has purple all around his mouth and on his hands. There is this plant with purple berries on it. They look like blueberries.”
    Call Poison Control or seek medical help. ‘Tis the season for deadly Nightshade and poisonous Poke berries. Both plants have bright purple or dark blue berries and make for pretty fall plants. Pokeberries have bright red stems. Bittersweet is often used in holiday centerpieces and is equally dangerous. If a child or adult swallows any of these berries, it should be considered a medical emergency.

  9. “I had mixed plant food with water and stored it in a milk carton in the refrigerator. One of my guests accidentally drank some of it. Is he going to be okay?”
    Call Poison Control or seek medical help. Depending on the amount swallowed and the size of the person, plant food can be dangerous or burn the throat or skin.

  10. “One of my guests is breaking out in a rash. What could it be?”
    Good question. Call Poison Control. This could be a food allergy, a pet allergy, heat rash, or an allergic reaction to any number of products.

The University of Kansas Health System has funded and operated the Poison Control Center as a free service since 1998. The Poison Control Center serves all of Kansas and the greater metropolitan area. Call 1-800-222-1222 if your family needs help. The Center is open 24 hours a day including weekends and holidays.