NM Poison Center stresses holiday safety

Food, decorations, holiday plants all pose risks

The New Mexico Poison and Drug Information Center (NMPDIC) at the UNM College of Pharmacy is wishing New Mexico a safe and happy holiday season by offering  tips to protect family, friends and neighbors from a potential poisoning:

Food Preparation and Alcohol

  • Thaw frozen, unstuffed turkeys in the refrigerator for 1-5 days, depending on the size of the bird.
  • For faster thawing, turkeys can be put in watertight wrappers and submerged in cold water for 4 to 12 hours depending on the size of the bird. Add ice regularly to deep the water cold.
  • Do not thaw the turkey on the kitchen counter.
  • All work surfaces and utensils should be washed promptly after use.  Hands, utensils, and work surfaces that touch raw poultry are likely to pick up bacteria. To avoid spreading bacteria to other foods, wash hands thoroughly before and after dressing the turkey.
  • Wash hands well with warm water and soap before and after food preparation, especially raw meat/eggs.
  • Wash utensils, containers, countertops and cutting boards well before and after food preparation.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meat products.
  • Refrigerate all perishable items no more than two hours after a meal.
  • It is important to ensure complete cooking with a meat thermometer by pushing the point of the thermometer into the thickest part of the meet (usually the drumstick) without touching the bone. At 325 degrees, the turkey should be cooked until the thermometer registers between 180 and 185 degrees.
  • Stuffing temperature should reach at least 165 degrees.
  • 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.

Food Safety During a Power Outage

Power outages can occur anytime. Follow these guidelines to know your refrigerated and frozen food is safe to eat when the power comes back on:

  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible.
  • The refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if unopened.
  • A full freezer will hold the temperature for 48 hours (24 hours if half full) if the door remains closed.
  • For prolonged power outages, store refrigerated items in a cooler with ice.
  • When power comes back on, frozen food that still has ice crystals or that  is at 40°F or below is safe to refreeze or cook.
  • Discard any meat, poultry, fish, eggs or leftovers that have been above 40°F for 2 hours or more.
  • Always remember: when in doubt, throw it out!

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 eye.
  • Do not ingest the liquid in snow globes as harmful bacteria can accumulate.
  • Keep all substances containing hydrocarbons, such as 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; tape battery compartments for extra precaution.

Toxic Holiday Plants

  • It may be worth keeping toxic plants out of your home if you have small children or pets.  At the very least, keep toxic plants out the reach of children and pets.
  • 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 the essential oils in evergreens, such as balsams, cedar, fir, juniper and pine, as they can cause stomach irritation if ingested, and damage to the lung if inhaled as an aromatic fragrance.


  • During flu and cold season, our homes may be heavily stocked with remedies. Take extra care to 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.
  • Remember that the holiday season is usually a time when family and friends visit your home. Ensure that visitors also keep their medications out of the reach of children.

Call NMPDIC at 1-800-222-1222 for any questions or poison emergencies.

Categories: College of Pharmacy, Community

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