Emergency physicians recently provided tips on how to avoid an unexpected trip to the emergency room during the holiday season.

“This Thanksgiving, a few simple steps to avoid preventable injury or illness can go a long way toward making sure you safely enjoy the holiday,” said Dr. Paul Kivela, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “It is important to take the time to enjoy this special time of year. But, if the need arises, emergency physicians treat patients 24-hours a day, even on holidays, and we will be there for you.”

Follow food safety guidelines. For many people, the important part of Thanksgiving is a big meal surrounded by friends and loved ones. Mishandling raw meat or other ingredients could transmit harmful bacteria or lead to stomach pains.

Hands should be washed thoroughly when handling uncooked meat, and uncooked meat should be kept separate from other foods. Sanitize any surface that touches raw food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that oven temperatures should be no lower than 325 degrees.

Those with allergies who did not cook the meals should remember to ask about the ingredients and how food was prepared. And, do not forget to refrigerate all leftovers within two hours. People are encouraged to pace themselves when a big meal is involved, whether they are preparing, eating or cleaning up afterward. If the gathering includes alcoholic beverages, drink in moderation. Do not drink and drive.

Careful planning for meal preparation can help make sure there is plenty of time to get the job done. Knife injuries from slicing food are some of the more common Thanksgiving mishaps. Accidents occur when carving or cutting too quickly.

Accidents or fires can be caused by trying to do too many things at once, exposure to hot liquid or oil splashes. Bend at the knees and avoid back injuries when lifting heavy pots or plates. Deep frying a turkey can be dangerous, especially for novice cooks. Never attempt to deep fry a frozen turkey. The turkey should be completely thawed out first. And, frying a turkey should be done a safe distance away from any flammable structure.

Exercise safely, don’t overdo it. If a “Turkey Bowl” or other athletic activity is part of a celebration, remember to stretch first and avoid overexertion. Avoid weather-related issues such as hypothermia or frostbite by dressing appropriately for the weather outside. The emergency room will likely see a spate of holiday-related sprains, muscle tears or other injuries. Especially for those who may not exercise regularly, one way to decrease the likelihood of injury is to play touch football rather than tackle.

Thanksgiving can also be a challenge for those coping with mental health issues. Whether it comes from the pressure to entertain, financial strain, family tension or other issues, stress runs high this time of year. Recognize and treat the symptoms of anxiety, depression or other mental health disorders with professional help as needed. Better self-care can ward off things that may send someone to the emergency room, like panic attacks, complications from alcohol abuse or other emergencies.

“Distractions, multitasking and poor decisions make Thanksgiving one of the busier days in many emergency departments. If an emergency does occur, don’t delay a trip to the ER, putting off care might seem convenient at the time but poses serious health risks,” said Kivela.