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Safety Tips When Grilling

Warm spring weather means grilling season! But it can also be “burn season.” Whether grease from a hamburger singed your hand, or you touched the grill cover to see whether it was hot (which it was) — your hands are the most likely appendage to suffer a grill injury during a cooking session in front of the BBQ.

In fact, in a recent National Fire Protection Association report, 16,600 people go to the ER each year because of injuries involving grills, including 8,200 with thermal burns. Children under five accounted for a about 1,600 grill burns which typically occurred when they bumped into, touched or fell on the grill or hot coals.

So how can you keep you, your family and your guests safe when grilling?

Give yourself space. Whether prepping a nice meal for the family or entertaining for a large group, make sure the grill is away from foot traffic. Remind children (yes, more than once!) that the grill is hot. Keep lawn toys, games and any other yard activities a safe distance from the grill. Keep an eye on your pets, too. And never leave a grill unattended.

Make sure your grill is stable. Set up your grill on a flat surface and make sure the grill can’t be tipped over. If a grill begins to topple or fall, your initial instinct will be to grab it. If your hands are not protected, you could suffer a severe injury. Also, never try to move a lit or hot grill. And remember, the grill will stay hot for at least an hour or more after use.

Project your hands. When cooking at the grill, wear fire-retardant gloves. Not only will you be protected from grease splatter or hot coals, but you can handle a hot lid easily.

Wear tight clothing. Clothing can easily catch fire, so be sure your shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings don’t dangle over the grill.

Use long utensils. Make sure to keep your hands a safe distance from the gas or coal heat by using long utensils with wooden or melt proof handles.

Gas grill safety. If you are using a gas grill and the flame goes out, turn the grill and the gas off, then wait at least five minutes to re-light it. Do not stick your hand inside with a lit match to relight a flame.

Charcoal grill know-how. Only use charcoal starter fluid and sparingly. You do not need to douse charcoal with an entire bottle to get coals started. If the fire starts to go out, don’t add any more starter fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Consider using a charcoal chimney starter, which uses newspaper to start the fire instead of starter fluid.

Be ready to put out the fire. Have baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher nearby for other fires. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, keep a bucket of sand next to the grill. Never use water to put out grease fire.

What to do if you do get a burn?

A first-degree burn is like sunburn — your skin is red and it hurts. This will heal without much intervention. Apply a cool compress and cold water to the affected areas; take Motrin for pain control.

A second-degree burn blisters and really hurts. Any second-degree burns can scar significantly and the griller needs to go to the emergency room immediately. Remove charred clothing and anything constricting like necklaces, rings or bracelets. Apply cold tap water and a clean, dry dressing to the area, such as a sheet or gauze. Do not use ice or ice water, as this can make things worse.

Third degree burns tend to appear whitish at the edges and do not hurt because the nerves are damaged. Fourth degree burns go down to the muscle and bone. Both of these injuries require immediate emergency room treatment. Call 911.

If you choose the wrong do-it-yourself treatment, you can increase the risk of worsening the burn and increase the chance of infection and scarring. So keep yourself safe this summer and enjoy those barbecued ribs!

For more information or to request an appointment, please contact Dr. Patrick McDaid, M.D. at

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