One moment, you’re enjoying the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. The next, turkey, forks and four-letter words are flying across the dining room table.

What happened? Extended family + controversial topics = disaster.

Family at the dinner table at the Thanksgiving day.

Thanksgiving Dinner can be stressful, but APHA can help you avoid disasters ranging from awkward conversation to food-borne illnesses. Photo by iStockPhoto

Luckily, APHA prides itself on disaster preparedness — we’ve even got a website for it! And because public health and prevention go hand-in-hand, here’s a Thanksgiving tool kit for surviving emergencies.

Keep politics polite

Maybe your uncle wants the Affordable Care Act repealed or doesn’t like The Real Bears. It’s OK to disagree, but do so civilly. Qualifiers such as “I respect your opinion” and “I understand your point” go a long way in diffusing confrontation — even if he’s clearly wrong.

Safety first

You’ve successfully mellowed an argument on food-borne illnesses — your mother-in-law just scooped some mashed potatoes with her index finger. But now she needs to cut through her turkey, and you have to get her the knife.

If you must, hold the blade facing out of your palm, so even if the knife were to slip, you won’t be cut.  Trust us, she won’t like if the edge is pointed at her.

And if she also happens to drop her drinking glass, you can ensure safety by telling everyone to remain seated until you’ve completely swept the carnage. You should be wearing shoes while you do this, and carefully remove children and pets whenever possible.

Worry about health, not calories

The average American consumes more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. We encourage healthy eating, but it’s OK to splurge in moderation. A hard workout can take care of that.

But exercise cannot cure an illness, so cook for safety. These tips can make your dinner table safe and allow your guests to eat without worries:

  • keep a clean work surface, making sure all utensils and hands are washed;
  • make sure your kitchen has a fire extinguisher in case of emergency and follow American Red Cross standards for fire prevention;
  • follow USDA standards when preparing or stuffing turkey; and
  • turn off your stove when you can’t be in the kitchen.

Drive sparingly, and never after alcohol consumption

Whether it’s the tryptophan in the turkey or the mind-numbing conversation, much can put you to sleep after a Thanksgiving meal. Tired driving, by itself, is dangerous.

But the real hazard is alcohol. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, increased alcohol consumption makes Thanksgiving Week one of the most dangerous to be on the road.

Minimize the risk on Thanksgiving by avoiding driving while drowsy, and alcohol altogether.

Be prepared, be safe and enjoy a safe, delicious and friendly Thanksgiving.