Tips to prevent Thanksgiving week burns

WASHINGTON — Thanksgiving week is one of the busiest times of the year for local burn units.

“We usually see an increased number of patients coming in with cooking-related injuries around the holiday season,” says Dr. Jeffrey Shupp, head of the burn center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

Blame part of it on those turkey fryers that became popular more than a decade ago. But Shupp says another big reason is the fact so many people are cooking big birds in flimsy, disposable aluminum pans.

Sometimes, those pans can’t handle the weight, and spill hot turkey juices on the cook when being removed from the oven, resulting in grease burns to the legs and feet.

Shupp says a simple solution is to put something ovenproof and sturdy under the disposable pan, such as a heavy baking sheet.

It’s an idea developed at Washington Hospital Center during a campaign to spread awareness of the dangers of grease fires.

Local fire departments are trying to get the word out as well — especially about the risks posed to people and their homes by those heavy-duty turkey fryers.

Mark Brady, spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, says on Thanksgiving, the number of house fires doubles from an average day, in large part because people use those fryers without taking adequate precautions.

He offers the following tips:

  • Avoid using too much oil. If you overfill the container, the excess oil will spill out when you put the turkey in.
  • Once the oil has heated, turn the burner off before you add the turkey. Once you are sure everything is safe, turn the burner back on.
  • Always use the turkey fryer outdoors, and on a level surface — preferably, concrete. Stay away from wooden decks.
  • Use only a thawed, dry turkey in a deep fryer. Water and oil do not mix.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water on a grease fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fire, and never leave a hot fryer unattended.

But if the worst does occur, Shupp says it is important to seek medical attention — even on a holiday.

“I believe that when dealing with grease, any burn that forms a blister should be evaluated in the burn center or at the closest emergency room,” he says.

Shupp says the best first aid is simply to wash off the grease with mild soap and water, and apply a clean, dry gauze bandage or cloth — even a laundered dish cloth will work in a pinch.

Forget all the old wives tales about holding a burn under cool water or dabbing butter on the affected area. For a minor burn, use a hypoallergenic moisturizer.

“There are plenty of aloe-containing products that are probably just fine,” says Shupp.

But he cautions that any weeping or blistering wound needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

Editor’s Note: Below is a video showing what can happen when frying a turkey:

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