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The most dangerous part of cooking a turkey isn't the deep fryer

Man carving a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner
Are you sure you want Uncle Jerry to carve the turkey?
GMVozd/Getty Images

Deep frying a turkey, it turns out, isn’t the most dangerous Thanksgiving activity. Instead, federal data shows that the most turkey-related emergency room admissions are from those who have mishaps with a knife.

Thanks to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), we have data on emergency room visits at about 100 hospitals, and of the more than 358,000 recorded visits in 2015, 47 involved turkey-related injuries.

Forty-seven injuries is thankfully low, but of those 47 turkey-related ER visits, nearly half involved a knife.

Chart showing the breakdown of ER turkey-related injuries. 20 involved knives.

Another commonly reported injury was burns — either from hot, boiling grease or from coming into contact with a scalding hot pan.

One particularly gruesome incident that resulted in hospitalization read: “84 year old female with burns to chest & upper arm. Clothing caught on fire when cooking turkey legs on gas stove. Family put fire out. Unknown if Fire Department present.”

Fortunately, of the 47 reported incidents, only four required hospitalization. All other emergency room visits were relatively minor — four involved strained backs from attempting to lift turkeys — and no fatalities were reported.

To be fair, this likely doesn’t capture the full extent of turkey-related injuries, since this only accounts for ones that required trips to the ER. But it goes to show that carving a turkey can be serious, and potentially dangerous, business.

There’s a clear age bias in turkey-related emergency room visits

While turkey-related accidents impacted all ages, those injured did tend to skew older, with people between the ages of 51 and 70 most affected.

Bar chart showing that turkey-related injuries impact older Americans between the ages of 51 and 70 the most

The gender ratio of those injured, meanwhile, was nearly even. Slightly more women than men sustained turkey-related injuries: 28 women compared to 23 men.

Almost all turkey-related emergency room visits happen in November

During the holiday season, many hospital emergency rooms see a spike in visits. And perhaps unsurprisingly, turkey-related injuries fall pretty squarely into this category.

In 2015, 31 of the 47 turkey-related injuries happened in November, 10 of which fell on Thanksgiving Day. Another eight fell the day after Thanksgiving and three the day before.

Chart showing that most turkey-related trips to the ER happen in November

Most turkey-related accidents happen at home, but two wild turkey attacks resulted in trips to the ER

Not surprisingly, most turkey-related incidents happened in the home — or, more specifically, the kitchen. But in 2015, two of the 47 turkey-related incidents involved wild turkey attacks.

Closeup of a wild turkey in the woods in Monroe, NY.
Closeup of a wild turkey in the woods in Monroe, New York. Majestic, but not friendly.
Waring Abbott/Getty Images

Details from one of the attacks stated that a 32-year-old man was hiking when he spooked a turkey and it chased him, causing the man to fall and injure his left hand.

In the other attack, the details are a bit murkier, as it is unclear who the aggressor was. All the incident report says is that a 29-year-old female ran through a barbed wire fence while chasing a turkey, racking up multiple lacerations across her thigh.

But turkey attacks are no laughing matter. And in the state of Massachusetts, they seem to be a recurring problem that could be getting worse. The state has even published an in-depth how-to guide called “Prevent Conflicts with Wild Turkeys” on their energy and environmental affairs website.

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