Emergency Care For You

Don't Get Burned During the Holidays

Leigh Vinocur, MD, FACEP
Dr. Vinocur is currently an emergency physician on faculty at the MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety.

If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, burning the turkey is not the only thing you should worry about. Kitchens are the most dangerous rooms in our houses and burns top the list of holiday injuries.

According to Safe Kids, USA over 100,000 children are treated every year for burn injuries. Scalding burns are the most common type of burn injury seen in kids, especially young children.

It just takes a second for a toddler to grab a pot with boiling water from the stove, or a mug of hot coffee on the counter. Young children are the most vulnerable because of their natural curiosity,  but they also have thinner skin that burns more quickly.

It only takes one second of contact with human skin to cause a serious burn if a liquid is over 160° F. In kids less than five years of age it happens even faster! Deaths from scalding burns are the highest for kids under four years of age.

Injuries related to cooking fires are another risk. The National Fire Protection Agency sites cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires. Most people are injured trying to put out the fire themselves. Don’t pour water over a grease fire, it actually causes the grease to splatter and spreads the fire. 

Here are some tips to keep everyone safe this holiday and everyday in the kitchen.

  • Never leave a child unattended in a kitchen (not even for a second) when cooking or leaving hot foods or hot liquids out.
  • When cooking on the stove, cook on the back burners and turn pot handles inward, out of reach of small children. Push any hot liquids or foods to the back of the counter also out of their reach.
  • Designate a 3-foot area in front of the stove where kids are not allowed. You can even use tape to help them see and understand that they should not go into that “danger zone.”
  • Consider placing a stove guard in front of your stove to prevent kids from reaching anything on the stove.
  • Avoid drinking and holding hot liquids while holding children on your lap.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher handy in your kitchen.

In the event of an emergency:

  • Remove the affected clothing
  • Do not apply butter or ointments or creams
  • Run the burned area under cool water for 15 minutes
  • Then cover with a dry clean gauze
  • Call 911

When it comes to burn emergencies, being smart will help you keep your cool, literally!