Go easy when you give thanks

Gorging on high-sodium and sugary foods could land a lot of people in the hospital emergency room on Thanksgiving, physicians and officials warned.

While emergency room physicians do see their fair share of Thanksgiving-related burns, improper eating tops the list of reasons for hospital visits, said Dr. Cheryl Lee of Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

Lee has worked the hospital's emergency room every Thanksgiving, and like most years, patients start trickling in around 5 p.m. after most people have eaten dinner. The number of patients in the emergency room increases about 8 p.m., she added.

Patients often complain of stomach and chest pains from stress, heartburn or overeating, she said. Some Thanksgiving revelers are admitted for high blood pressure or have ingested too much salt or sugar, a common among holiday pitfalls for diabetics.

And while some patients think that leaving the hospital will mean they get a second chance to eat their Thanksgiving supper, Lee often advises them to avoid heavy food and to only drink liquids for at least three days.

"I feel really horrible about telling them that," she said.

The most common excuse Lee hears from patients trying to get out of the emergency room is that they left the stove or the oven on, she said.

The Glendale Fire Department is also no stranger to Thanksgiving emergency calls, some of which involve chest pains, Capt. Stuart Stefani said.

Firefighters responded to 31 emergency calls last Thanksgiving, which was less than the 42 calls that crews go to in an average 24 hour shift, he said.

"Holidays are usually a little slower calls wise," Stefani said in an e-mail. "Usually people are at home, and not conducting business as usual."

Of the 31 calls, 21 were related to medical emergencies.

Two of the calls were for structure fires, one of which was grease-related, filling an apartment building with smoke, Stefani said.


The following are tips from Dr. Cheryl Lee, the Glendale Fire Department and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on eating healthy and cooking safely.

• Take your medication and monitor your sugar and salt intake.

• Limit food intake to normal-sized portions. Stick to protein-rich foods.

• If you must leave the home for even a short period of time, turn off the stove or oven.

• Keep things that burn — pot holders, oven mitts, paper or plastic — off your stovetop.

• Wear clothing with sleeves that are short, close fitting, or tightly rolled up.

• Keep kids away from cooking areas by enforcing a "kid-free zone" of 3 feet (1 meter) around the stove.

• When roasting a whole turkey, use a food thermometer to make sure it cooks to 165° F or higher. Insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, but not against the bone.

•For safety and "uniform doneness," cook stuffing separately in a casserole dish.

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