Leo Wheeler, a meat cutter at Whole Foods, prepares a turkey Leo Wheeler, a meat cutter at Whole Foods, prepares a turkey
Credit: Furhana Afrid

NM Poison Center offers tips to prevent poisonings during Thanksgiving holidays

Safety advice for food prep, holiday decorations, plants, medications

The New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center received more than 300 calls on suspicious poisonings in 2015. To help protect New Mexicans against potential toxins during the Thanksgiving holidays, the Poison Center is making recommendations.

The tips includes safe handling of meats, storage of alcohol, and holiday decorations like angel hair and snow spray. If ingested, holiday plants such as mistletoe and Christmas holly, can result in toxic affects.



Food preparation and alcohol:

  • Wash hands well with warm soapy water before and after food preparation, especially raw meat and eggs.
  • Wash utensils, containers, counter tops and cutting boards thoroughly before and after food preparation.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats.
  • Cook all meats to the recommended internal temperature.
  • Refrigerate all perishable items no more than two hours after a meal.
  • Avoid storing raw meat above prepared food as contaminated fluid may drip or seep. 
  • Keep all alcoholic beverages out of the reach of children and beware of unfinished alcoholic beverages—as little as 3 oz. of hard liquor can be fatal to a child weighing 25 pounds.

Holiday decorations:

  • Angel hair is made up of spun glass, which can severely irritate the eyes and mouth, causing a lot of pain.
  • Snow spray can cause severe damage if sprayed directly into the eyes.
  • Do not ingest the liquid in snow globes as harmful bacteria can accumulate.
  • Keep all substances containing hydrocarbons, including oil candle lamps, out of the reach of children.  These products are extremely dangerous and can cause severe respiratory problems or may lead to death.
  • Beware of fireplace powders and logs that burn different colors as they contain heavy metals. Symptoms include severe stomach pain and intestinal irritation.
  • Store batteries out of sight and reach of children and tape battery compartments for extra precaution.

Toxic holiday plants:

  • If you have small children or pets consider keeping toxic plants out of your home or out of reach.
  • Although the effects of ingesting toxic holiday plants range in severity, the most common symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The following holiday plants are considered toxic ---  mistletoe, azalea, rhododendron, amaryllis, Christmas berry, holly, winter broom, Jerusalem cherry, chrysanthemum and Christmas peppers.
  • Beware of essential oils in evergreens, such as balsams, cedar, fir, juniper and pine. If ingested they can cause stomach irritation. They can also damage the lung if inhaled as an aromatic fragrance.


  • During flu and cold season homes may be heavily stocked with remedies. Ensure that all medications are kept in their original containers and out of the reach of children.
  • Follow directions carefully and do not exceed recommended dosage.
  • The holiday season is a time when family and friends visit homes. Ensure that visitors also keep their medications out of the reach of children.

Call the Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for any questions or poison emergencies.

Categories: College of Pharmacy, Community

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