The top 5 things that could send you to the hospital this Thanksgiving

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Food poisoning

This one may sound obvious, but it's easier to contract a food-borne pathogen than you might think, since there are a few steps in the meal prep process that can result in illness. The first one is thawing a turkey. The turkey "danger zone" is between 39 and 140 degrees F, so a thawing bird should either be in the fridge or the microwave, not left out in the open.

The second food poisoning opportunity is when you're cooking the darn thing. Everyone knows you shouldn't bake stuffing in the turkey unless you follow a recipe designed to keep you safe, but you should also make sure to check the internal temperature of the meat. The USDA recommends cooking your bird to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Even if your turkey comes with one of those pop-up thermometers, you should still check the meat at the thickest part of the breast and the innermost part of the thigh and wing. This will help prevent salmonella, a pathogen often found in poultry (shown above attacking human cells).

Learn more about food-borne illnesses:

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Risky foods to eat, food-borne illnesses
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Risky foods to eat, food-borne illnesses
In this Aug. 16, 2007 file photo, a worker harvests romaine lettuce in Salinas, Calif. Leafy green vegetables were the leading source of food poisoning over an 11-year period, federal health officials say, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. However, the most food-related deaths were from contaminated chicken and other poultry. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
Salmonella can enter tomatoes through cracks and bruises in the fruit's skin. (Photo via Getty Images)
Raw fish, like in sushi and sashimi, carries a risk of salmonella. (Photo via Getty Images)
Fermented foods such as soy sauce can be a breeding ground for flies if they are not covered properly. (Photo via Getty Images)
Raw or undercooked eggs are linked to salmonella. (Photo by Russel Wasserfall, Getty Images)
Many wild mushrooms are poisonous to humans; be cautious of where you get them from. (Photo by Adam Gault, Getty Images)
The seeds of many fruits contain toxins that can be poisonous if consumed. (Photo via Tetra Images/Getty Images)
Oysters have been linked to several illness outbreaks, as they are often consumed raw and can carry any viruses from the water they were in. (Photo via Getty Images)
Soft cheeses, like brie and feta, can carry listeria. (Photo via Getty Images)
Sprouts require humid conditions to grow, which can also spur bacteria growth. (Photo by Tom Grill via Getty Images)
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Last and not least, make sure to safely store your food. Before you collapse into a food coma, get up and put away your leftovers to prevent the growth of Clostridium perfingens, one of the most common causes of food-borne illness in the United States.

Thanksgiving should be about being thankful for what we have, spending time with the people we care about, and stuffing our faces with foods we love. It would be a shame to have it end in the emergency room. Besides missing dessert, you could end up with a debilitating illness or disfiguring injury. Follow our tips so you only end up with a fat stomach and not a fat hospital bill.

The human heart and circulatory system

Bryan Brandenburg via Wikimedia Commons

Heart problems

This might seem a little less obvious, but heart problems cause a significant number of visits to the hospital on Thanksgiving each year. The high quantity of sodium in a typical Thanksgiving meal causes your body to retain water, increasing the volume of your blood and putting extra strain on your heart. That, combined with the stress of traveling, overeating, and debating politics with your relatives can cause underlying issues to surface in the form of fibrillations, heart attacks, or heart failure. If you're worried about your cardiovascular health, try to take it easy on the food this Thursday and keep the conversation to uncontroversial topics like puppies or the weather.

turkey fryer fire

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Fireball!

Deep-fried turkey has become a Thanksgiving standard for many people, and rightly so. The crispy skin and juicy, evenly-cooked flesh make it an instant hit at the dinner table. But neglecting to fully thaw a turkey you plan to fry can cause a potentially dangerous fire. As a frozen turkey heats up in the oil, ice turns to water, which quickly turns to steam, causing the oil to bubble up over the sides of the pot. If that oil hits the open flame on a turkey fryer, then you've got yourself a Thanksgiving emergency. So make sure you fully thaw any turkey you plan to fry, and please, only do this outdoors.

See more fire safety tips:

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Fire Safety tips
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Fire Safety tips

Keep smoke detectors in each floor of your home, make sure the batteries are replaced periodically and the entire unit replaced every 10 years. 

(Photo: Getty Images)

Keep at least one carbon monoxide alarm in your home and replace the unit every 5-7 years. 

(Photo: Getty Images)

Make sure any young children in your home are educated about fire safety

(Photo: Getty Images)

Create a fire escape plan

(Photo: Getty)

Keep flammable items away from heat sources, such as windows, space heaters and baseboard heating. 

(Photo: Getty Images)

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Oregon Department of Transportation

Car crash

As you travel to and from Thanksgiving dinner, whether it's around the corner or across state lines, pay special attention to road conditions and your own physical state. If you're sleepy from overeating (or perhaps from an extra glass of wine or two) it's always better to stay over rather than risk an accident, even if it means sleeping in your childhood racecar bed. Thanksgiving rivals New Years Eve for the most drunk driving deaths, and this could be made even worse if your town receives a snowfall. So please, for your safety and everyone else's, make sure to have a designated driver or just spend the night at your parents' house. They probably want you to, even if they're too polite to hassle you about it.

Blood test

U.S. Navy via Wikimedia Commons

Unnecessary hospital visits

If you don't see your family members very often, you may be alarmed to notice how much someone ages in a year. It can be easy to mistake chronic medical conditions or normal aging as a medical emergency when you haven't seen their slow progression. So before you rush your family member to the hospital, talk to them and the people who see them more often to make sure you're not breaking up the party for no reason.

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