How to avoid getting burns this holiday

WASHINGTON — A local burn surgeon has quick tips to help keep holiday cooks out of the emergency room.

“I really want everybody to have an amazing holiday season, and I think a little bit of prevention will go a long way,” said Dr. Laura Johnson, of The Burn Center at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.

In the kitchen

  • Always use oven mitts to handle hot items.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing around hot surfaces or open flames.
  • Keep stove top area clutter-free, even if the oven and burners are off
  • Foil roasting pans can be flimsy — lift them with care or support with a sturdy baking sheet.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes.

Proper footwear is especially important for diabetics. “A lot of times, we see people who inadvertently get grease on their feet,” Johnson said, and those wounds can be problematic for diabetics.

“Worst-case scenario from those kinds of injuries is patients can lose toes and feet,” Johnson said. “That’s a real sad way to spend the holidays.”

Deep-frying a turkey

  • Put fryer on a stable, flat surface.
  • Use oven mitts on hot pot handles and lid tops.
  • Completely thaw the bird to avoid an oil splashing explosion.
  • Properly measure cooking oil to avoid spillover.

Popular Mechanics describes an ingenious way to determine how much oil is needed: Before cooking, put the bird in the pot using whatever utensil will be used when it’s time to cook. Barely cover the fowl with water. Take the bird out and mark the top of the bird-free waterline by scratching the inside of the pot, or use a tape measure. That’s how much oil you need.

Putting out a fire

  • Don’t throw water on a kitchen fire — smother it.
  • Cover the fire with a large soup pan or pot lid.
  • For an oven fire, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

“Remove the oxygen that’s feeding it,” Johnson said.

If you do get burned

For superficial burns, Johnson recommends gently washing the area with room-temperature running water. A moisturizing lotion will help with the pain and decrease inflammation, Johnson said.

If you’re burned badly enough for blisters to form, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you seek medical attention.

Johnson said you should go to a burn center as soon as possible. MedStar Washington Hospital Center is the regional burn center for D.C. and surrounding parts of Virginia and Maryland.

“It’s hard to appreciate some of the subtleties that go into managing a second-degree burn,” Johnson said. “And with delay, we unfortunately can see patients with complications that sometimes need an operation.”

Related links

National Fire Protection Association
U.S. Fire Administration
Tips to prevent Thanksgiving week burns

Watch a video about burn prevention during the holidays:

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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