Common Grilling Injuries


May 24, 2020


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One of the best parts of summer — and something that’s as American as apple pie — is getting together with friends and family for a cookout. Whether it’s at a park or by your pool, you get great food, loved ones, good music, and cocktails or other beverages. However, these idyllic comments can sometimes result in grilling injuries. What are the most common ones? And, how can you treat them?

What are the most common grilling injuries?

1. Burns

This includes burning your skin, flash burns from adding starter fluid after igniting the grill, and from an accumulation of grease — which is highly flammable. To lower the risk, add fluid before turning on the grill, and place the grill away from where there’s a high traffic of people — especially children. And, when you’re done grilling, wait until the coals are cool before cleaning up.

What to do if you get burned: If the burn is minor — meaning there is only reddening and small blisters — place the burned body part in cold water. This will help reduce the swelling. Do not apply ice directly on the skin, as this could cause freezer burning. Do not pop any blisters. Instead, apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a sterile pad. If you experience a second or third-degree burn, remove clothing close to the burn, cover the burn with a clean pad, and call 911. While waiting for an ambulance to arrive, stay with the burned person and watch for signs of shock — including rapid breathing and pulse, clammy skin, dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and/or a bluish or gray tinge to the lips.

2. Knife Cuts

Lacerations of the skin and cut fingers are common accidents while grilling — and they could happen from either a sharp or a dull knife. To lower the risk use knives only for their intended purposes. Don’t use a butter knife to cut vegetables. Don’t use a steak knife to cut fruit. When chopping items, curl your fingers under. Never use the palm of your hand as a cutting board — even if you’re cutting avocados or something small and you’re using a blunt knife. And always carry a knife with the tip pointing away from you.

What to do if you cut yourself: Clean the wound immediately to prevent infection. Once it’s clean and dry, apply antibiotic ointment and cover with a sterile bandage. If the wound won’t stop bleeding even after applying pressure, go to the nearest emergency room.

3. Smoke Inhalation

Smoke contains pollutants and carcinogens. Barbecue smoke — specifically — contains high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which cause respiratory disease, among other health issues. To lower the risk of too much smoke inhalation, grill your food while keeping the hood open. This will prevent an accumulation of smoke from getting trapped in the grill.

What to do if you inhale too much smoke: Symptoms of inhaling too much smoke include headache, shortness of breath, coughing, hoarseness, and/or confusion. If you notice someone may have inhaled too much smoke, take them away from the smoke, and call 911. Monitor the person’s breathing, and start CPR if necessary.

4. Steakhouse Syndrome

Steakhouse syndrome occurs when you swallow food without chewing it adequately — and it gets stuck in your throat. It’s more common when eating solid foods — such as meat. Symptoms include chest pain, gagging, difficulty swallowing, and choking. Lower the risk by chewing your food well. And, if you have an underlying medical condition — such as acid reflux, esophageal stricture, or a hiatal hernia, cut the meat in smaller pieces and focus on chewing it until it’s almost at a puree consistency.

What to do if you experience steakhouse syndrome: Drink a carbonated beverage immediately — the carbon dioxide will help disintegrate the piece of food and help move it down faster. If you still have trouble breathing or are unable to talk, go to the emergency room immediately. If the piece stuck in your throat causes you to choke and restricts your airway entirely, you may need to perform the Heimlich maneuver.

5. Defective Grill

A defective barbecue grill could lead to a long list of injuries — including burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. It is more difficult to lower the risk of this type of accident. After all, when you purchase a product, you expect it to work well. However, a faulty appliance could result in fuel leaks, exploding propane tanks, or fires. Make sure to inspect the grill to ensure the burners aren’t blocked by grease, that none of the hoses are cracked, that the grill is at least 15 feet away from your house, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

What to do if you’re injured by a defective grill: If you experience a minor burn, follow the care instructions specified above. If anyone gets more serious burns or is getting dizzy or nauseous after standing around the grill, quit using the grill immediately, and seek emergency medical care.

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