When to Get Help: Burns, Cuts and Food Poisoning
November 17, 2023
When to get help for holiday bloopers like cuts, burns or food poisoning
You’re not imagining it: you are more likely to need medical help – or wonder if a trip to urgent care is needed – on a holiday. Combine rushing, cooking and distractions and things get predictably painful. This month we’re bringing you a reference guide for when to head to urgent care for the most common holiday injuries: burns, cuts and food poisoning.
Burns: When cold water won’t do
Cooking-related fires that require the fire department are more than three times more likely on Thanksgiving than on a typical day — along with an associated uptick in burns.
You may recall from high school health class that there are three degrees of burns: first, second and third. Second-degree and third-degree burns should receive prompt medical attention.
- First-degree burns damage your skin’s outermost layer. These burns cause pain and swelling, and the skin may be red. You’ve seen this as sunburn. You can care for this at home if the skin is not broken. If the burn is larger than your hand or is on the face, feet, eyes or genitals, come see us at Texas MedClinic Urgent Care.
- Second-degree burns damage not only the outermost layer, but the next layer of skin, too. These cause pain and swelling, and the skin may be red and blistering. Head to urgent care to avoid infection and improve healing.
- Third-degree burns damage or destroy both layers of skin, including sweat glands, nerve endings and hair follicles. The skin will be white or blackened. These burns may cause numbness at first, rather than pain, due to nerve damage. If your burn is this severe, visit the emergency department or call 9-1-1.
Cuts: How deep is too deep
Most holiday-related cuts happen in the kitchen, though we see them from plastic “clamshell” packaging and scissors, too. Whether rushing to get those veggies chopped, absentmindedly cutting while chatting with guests or slicing your finger on a sharp can lid, come see us if your cut:
- Is jagged.
- Doesn’t stop bleeding after 5-10 minutes.
- Is deep enough that it gaps, or you can see tendon or bone.
If you can’t confidently clean the wound, you should also come into the clinic closest to you. Even if stitches aren’t required, we can help you avoid infection.
Go to the hospital or call 9-1-1 if blood is spurting, there is an associated head injury or broken bone, you’re unable to move, you lose consciousness, or there is an object stuck in your body.
Food foisoning or illness: When to worry
No matter the talent of the cook, gatherings like Thanksgiving have the potential for food poisoning. If you’re hosting or bringing a dish to share, be sure to follow safe food handling guidelines. If you’re a guest, beware of anything that looks or tastes ‘off’ and prioritize your safety over politeness. (You’re suddenly full, right?)
A food-borne illness typically appears not long after you’ve eaten the culprit food. You’ll likely experience one or more of these symptoms: diarrhea, stomach pain or cramps, nausea, vomiting and fever. These can last a few hours or a few days, depending on the virus or bacteria to blame. Those that pass quickly are less dangerous, especially because you are less likely to become dehydrated. Head to urgent care if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Bloody diarrhea.
- Diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days.
- High fever (temperature over 102°F).
- Vomiting that prevents you from keeping liquids down.
- Signs of dehydration, which include not urinating much, dry mouth and throat, feeling especially tired and/or feeling dizzy when standing.
- If you are pregnant.
How to avoid a mishap this holiday
As much as we enjoy caring for our patients, we prefer everyone be able to enjoy safe and healthy holidays. We encourage you to stay calm and take your time preparing so that your dinner isn’t rudely interrupted by an injury. We like to say that the only rushing that should happen on Thanksgiving is related to football!
To avoid food-borne illnesses, refer to this helpful information from the CDC. It includes reminders about processes. And here’s an all-in-one internal temperature chart for meat. (It’s 165 degrees for a turkey.)
Of course, if you need us, we’re here to help Remember that we have clinics across the region, so head to our website for the location nearest you.
Reviewed by: Katie Sanne, FNP-C
If you are in a situation that might be life-threatening, go straight to the emergency room or call 911. Situations like this include: Shortness of breath or breathing problems. Seizures or ‘blackouts’. Sudden vision problems. Confusion or dizziness. Heavy bleeding. Possible breaks that appear to be deformed or blue, or that include bleeding. Serious burns. The inability to speak or move. Head and neck injuries.