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5 Practical Skills for the Holiday ‘Host(ess) with the Mostest’

Posted on by Blog Administrator

Close up of a roasted turkey being brought to the dinner table on a serving tray.

It’s not easy playing the part of host or hostess with the “mostest” at the holidays. A lot of time, effort, and planning goes into making merry with family and friends. In all the excitement of getting the house and food ready for guests, honest mistakes, minor mishaps, and even life-threatening emergencies can happen.

Some accidents are just that … accidents; others—like turkey fryer fires—are often preventable. You can prepare for all of them.

Practical skills and lessons are everyday competencies that you can learn—and teach to others—to prepare your health for and protect people’s wellness in an emergency. Here are five (5) do-it-yourself skills that will, at the least, save your guests from a mild bout of food poisoning. At most, they could save a life.

Wet. Lather. Scrub. Rinse. Dry.

Hands lathered in soap suds

Handwashing involves five simple and effective steps that you can take to reduce the spread of germs, including those that cause food poisoning. Here’s how to wash hands the right way:

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

The germs that cause foodborne illnesses can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen. By washing your hands at key times and cleaning cutting boards with hot, soapy water after every use, you can guard your holiday guests against germs like salmonella.

Don’t Get “Done” In.

The term “doneness” refers to the outward appearance of food. It has nothing to do with whether a turkey, for example, has reached a safe internal temperature. An appetizing color and enticing smell are not proof that food is safe to eat. The only way to know that is to take its temperature.

Learn how to use and correctly read a food thermometer to make sure food reaches a temperature hot enough to kill germs. There are different kinds and combinations of food thermometers. Pick one that works for you.

Foodborne germs, like salmonella, can cause acute nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in most cases; and more serious symptoms in pregnant women, children, older adults, and individuals with weakened immune systems.

Batteries Not Included

There are no three scarier words for parents during the gift-giving season. Batteries—like food and water—are a staple of personal health preparedness kits because they power so many of our toys, gadgets, and home health and security devices.

Know how to check and replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends that you test both devices at least once a month. Make a point to try yours before guests arrive.

CO is a colorless, odorless gas produced by fuel-burning furnaces, water heaters, gas ranges, and other appliances, which you should have serviced by a qualified technician every year.  Portable generators and burning charcoal and wood also produce CO, which can build up rapidly indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it in. Symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

Where There’s SmokeHow to use a fire extinguisher. Pull the pin. Aim at the base of fire. Squeeze the lever. Sweep side to side.

Holiday decorations can increase your risk for a home fire. According to USFA, candles start more than half of home decoration fires in December. Switch to flameless candles if possible. If not, never leave a lit candle unattended, and always place them at least 12 inches away from anything flammable.

Also, learn how to use and maintain a fire extinguisher to prepare for the possibility of a home fire.  Remember the acronym PASS. It stands for:

  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

Choked Up

Know how to help someone who is choking. Giving abdominal thrusts is a method of applying pressure to remove an obstruction, like a piece of food, from a person’s windpipe. Along with hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (or CPR), knowing how to respond in a choking emergency is a basic life-saving skill that anyone can learn and teach to others.

If you suspect a person is choking and/or see someone giving the universal sign of choking—holding their neck with one or both hands—immediately take the following steps:

  1. Ask the person if they are choking. DO NOT perform first aid if the person is coughing forcefully and is able to speak.
  2. If they are unable to speak, perform abdominal thrusts:
    • Stand behind the person and wrap your arms around the person’s waist. For a child, you may have to kneel.
    • Make a fist with one hand. Place the thumb side of your fist just above the person’s navel, well below the breastbone.
    • Grasp the fist tightly with your other hand.
    • Make a quick, upward and inward thrust with your fist.
    • Check if the object was dislodged.
    • Continue thrusts until the object is dislodged or the person loses consciousness.
  3. Call 911 if the person loses consciousness. Always call 911 in a life-threatening emergency.

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3 comments on “5 Practical Skills for the Holiday ‘Host(ess) with the Mostest’”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Looks like that turkey was in the fryer too long. Reminds me of the one in “Christmas Vacation”—‘hey Clark, save me the gizzard’

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