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Don’t get burned (literally) this holiday season

Posted on by Vito J. DiCamillo, MD


Updated December 10, 2018

It’s that time of year. Time for holiday baking, gathering around the hearth with family and friends, trimming the tree, lighting candles. Unfortunately, along with these festive activities, comes an increased risk of burns.

Don’t let your holidays be tarnished with a trip to your local Urgent Care or emergency department...although we're here if you need us! Read on for tips to keep your holidays safe.

Kitchen safety

There is always an uptick in burn accidents between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Cooking is one major cause. You’re probably not used to preparing the large meals you do over the holidays or taking countless sheets of cookies out of the oven.

The best is advice is simple: Use caution and take your time. Keep pot handles turned in on the stove. Scalding is one of the most common burn injuries. Pots spill over and cause burns to the hands, arms and other parts of the body.

Watch open oven doors and curious toddlers who like to crawl. I’ve treated many children who explored open oven doors and burnt their hands. Protect your own hands when taking items out of the oven by using sturdy pot holders or better yet, oven mitts.

And speaking of pot holders and oven mitts, keep them, and other combustibles like towels, wooden utensils, and food packaging, away from the stovetop.

If you fry your turkey, do this outdoors, a safe distance away from buildings. Don’t overfill the fryer or leave it unattended. And thaw your turkey first. Frozen turkeys can explode in fryers.

Tree trimming

Trees aglow with holiday lights and decorations are a common cause of fires. If you have a live tree, be sure to add water to the stand frequently and don’t place near fireplaces or heaters. Be sure your artificial tree is fire resistant, and check those strings of lights. Defective wiring can cause electrical burns. Also, beware of dogs (mine included) that have been known to chew on wires and fray them while on the tree.

Fireplaces and candles

Never leave candles or fireplaces unattended. Fires can start and spread quickly. And while it may be tempting to throw wrapping paper into the fireplace while opening gifts by --don’t! Wrapping paper can ignite quickly and burn with intensity.

Back to the candles. Be sure they are out of the reach of children and pets, and away from furniture and draperies. And make sure your home is adequately equipped with working smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and fire extinguishers.

What to do if you experience a burn

If you do experience a burn, here’s what you need to know, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

Serious burns require medical attention. Seek immediate attention for third-degree burns, or burns that affect the inner-most layer of skin and cause the skin to be charred or white. Second-degree burns that destroy the top layer of skin and partially damage the second layer should also be evaluated by a healthcare professional. Initially, second-degree burns can be treated by immersing in cool water or by applying cool compresses for 10-15 minutes. Then, cover with sterile gauze.

Most minor or first-degree burns that only affect the top layer of skin causing it to turn red (but not blister) can usually be handled at home:

  • Soak the burn in cool water or apply compresses until the pain subsides.
  • Cover with a sterile, non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth.
  • Do not apply ointments or butter which may cause infection.
  • If needed, take over-the-counter pain medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • While first-degree burns usually heal without further treatment, if the burn covers a large area of the body or the victim in an infant or elderly person, seek emergency medical attention. In addition, follow up with a medical professional if you have burns that cross joints, face, or genitalia.

When in doubt, always seek medical attention.

 | LG Health Urgent Care - Lancaster

Vito J. DiCamillo, MD, is medical director for LG Health Urgent Care with locations in Lancaster, Ephrata, Parkesburg and Lebanon. Dr. DiCamillo’s specialties include emergency medicine and family medicine. Education: Medical School—Temple University School of Medicine; Residency—Lancaster General Hospital.

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