Memorial Day weekend is the official kick start to summer. It's also the time of year when Emergency Medicine physicians say they see many children and adults rushed to the hospital with severe burns to their hands and face due to grilling-related injuries.
The two most common causes of their injuries: excess grease inside the grill and flammable items around it.
Dr. Jeffrey Harrow, an emergency medicine physician at Texas Health HEB in Bedford offers tips to avoid injury by properly handling your grill.
First, start with a clean grill.
"Those little copper bristles [can] get inadvertently ingested," said Harrow, referencing what you use to clean the grill. Should those bristles become lodged in the throat, stomach or intestines, you could require surgery. Instead, he suggests using a nylon brush or aluminum foil.
If you have a gas grill, check hoses to make sure there is no leak.
Now, to lighting your grill. Gas grillers: Be sure to leave the lid open.
"Because what can happen is you turn on the gas, gas accumulates inside the grill and if your starter doesn't work then people end up going and throwing a match, and that can cause an explosion," said Harrow.
Charcoal grillers: Never add lighter fluid once the grill is going. Doing so could result in a flash of fire coming toward your face or hands.
While lighting the grill, keep children at least 10 feet away. And while it's on, watch their hands and feet.
"It's not just the cooking surface that's hot but it's all the surrounding metal parts that are hot as well," Harrow said.
Inhaling too much smoke can cause problems, too.
"The recommendation to try to prevent that would be to burp the grill," Harrow said. “Burping” a grill means opening the lid of a grill an inch or so, then a little bit more and then completely.
Never grill inside a garage or under an overhang. You want to be somewhere in the open with good ventilation in order to avoid carbon monoxide and smoke.
"That nice grill smell that's on your hair and your clothes also lines your lungs and can cause long term medical implications," Harrow said.
One final tip: Don't char your meat. It might taste good, but exposing yourself to carcinogens over time could cause cancer later in life.
"One way to avoid that would be to marinate your food," Harrow said. "That cuts down about 96- to 98 percent of that char that you expose yourself to."
So, when do you know when a burn is severe enough to require a trip to the ER?
First-degree burns are usually small and can be treated at home by running cold water over the burn for 10-15 minutes. Resist the urge to put ice on it. Wrap with gauze and ointment.
Second-degree burns will create immediate blistering. If the burn's surface is anything bigger than the palm of your hand, go to the ER.
Third-degree burns penetrate layers of skin, fat, muscles and nerves. They may appear white or gray in color and may not hurt if the nerves are damaged. Be sure to get checked out at the ER.