One of the best parts of the holiday season is visiting with family and friends to enjoy a great meal together. However, due to extra cooking during the holidays, we also see an increase in burn injuries during this time of year.  Some areas of the country see a 250% increase in burns while cooking and burn centers care for an increased number of patients, especially around Thanksgiving. In this blog, we discuss how you can prevent burns while cooking.

How to Limit Burns in the Kitchen

Limit the number of people in the cooking area

Our kitchens can become high-traffic areas, especially during the holidays.  Having too many guests in the kitchen increases the risk of injury, especially if the guests are children and pets.  Limit the number of guests in the kitchen at one time to a safe number and leave plenty of space to work.

Use potholders correctly

You may be attached to those old potholders sitting in your drawer, but they could unintentionally burn you if the protection has frayed away with time. Be sure your potholders haven’t lost their integrity to reduce the risk of getting burned.  Also, never use potholders that are wet. Wet potholders are much better conductors of heat and will burn your hands even if they are new.

Position the handles of pots and pans away from you when not in use

Leaving a pot of hot liquid on the stove and accidentally bumping the handle can lead to burns on your lower body or to a grease fire. Catastrophically, young children can also reach up and grab the handle and spill the hot liquid down onto them. Prevent these unnecessary burns by turning the handle of pots and pans toward the back of the stove.

Be careful with gas stoves

If you have a gas stove, wear tighter-fitting clothes to avoid catching fire. A fitted apron can also reduce the risk of clothes contacting the flame.  Increased risk of fires and burns are just one of the risks of gas stoves.  They also produce toxic products of combustion such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide.  Studies show increased risk of asthma and other respiratory conditions in homes with gas stoves.  Therefore, always ensure adequate ventilation when using one.  This will reduce, but not eliminate, the toxins produced filling your home.

Do not try to carry a pan on fire out of the house

Humans seem to be born with a reflex to carry any burning pan of grease out of the house.  Unfortunately, this almost always leads to a larger fire and severe injury.  While quickly carrying the pan toward the door, the liquid grease usually spills, carrying flame with it, or it lands on your hands or other parts of your body causing serious burns.  Around the holidays, burn centers see an increased number of this type of burn.  

Instead of carrying the burning pan outside, use a fire extinguisher or put a large lid over the burning pan to suffocate the fire.  And remember, never put water on a grease fire as it will only make things worse.

Turkey fryers are particularly hazardous, especially if we try to carry the fryer while full of hot oil.  A trip or spill while carrying a huge pot of hot grease can produce widespread, severe burns.  Turkey fryers are best avoided altogether.

Have a fire extinguisher just in case

Accidents happen. Putting out a fire as soon as possible is crucial to preventing unnecessary burns and property damage, so be sure to have a functional fire extinguisher nearby. This is especially crucial for a grease fire because a grease fire cannot be extinguished with water, and in fact, is worsened if treated with water.  And, as we discussed above, you should never try to move a pan full of grease that is on fire!  

How to Treat A Burn

For Minor Burns:

  • Run cool water on the burned area, apply an ice pack, or use a wet cloth if the burn is on the face. 
  • If the burned skin remains intact, you may treat the burn with lotion such as aloe vera or a mild, topical anesthetic such as Solarcaine or antibiotic ointment plus pain reliever.
  • Cover the burn with a loose bandage to protect the burned area.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Advil.

For Major Burns:

  • Go to the ER or call 911 and await help from paramedics.
  • Do not apply any creams or ointments to major burns.
  • You may run cool water over the burned area or apply an ice pack to reduce the pain.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Advil.
  • Burns on the face, or burns that involve large portions of the hands or any joint should be evaluated by a doctor right away.

Visit CapRock Health for treatment of burns

In order to prevent burns, it is helpful to follow the steps above, but you may need additional advice or treatment. If you have any questions following a burn, give us a call, and we’ll be happy to assist you.