Tips for Holiday Burn Injury Prevention: How to Avoid Our Burn Center

Many of the Burns Associated with the Holiday Season Can Be Prevented

The holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year for the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center at Stony Brook University Hospital.

As the holidays approach, doctors at our Burn Center are urging people to take extra precautions and to eliminate potential dangers that could lead to serious burn injuries.

an image is here"Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, we see a significant increase in patients coming in with burns," says Steven Sandoval, MD, assistant professor of surgery and medical director of the Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center.

"Holiday celebrations should be full of joy, but if not careful, could quickly turn tragic." Dr. Sandoval says many of these burns and injuries can be preventable and shares some tips for a safe holiday season.

Meals and the holidays go hand and hand, but Dr. Sandoval says the Burn Center sees more and more cooking injuries
each year.

"People aren't used to cooking such large meals on a regular basis," says Dr. Sandoval.

"Scalding is one of the most common burn injuries patients come in with. From large pots filled with boiling water, to boiling
hot juices spilling out of meat pans, people need to take extra precautions in the kitchen."

Take extra precautions and eliminate potential dangers that could lead to serious burn injuries.

Some cooking safety tips:

  • Keep potholders, wooden utensils, towels, and food packaging away from the stovetop.
  • Always have oven mitts out on the counter in plain sight, ready to handle everything from pot lids to cookie trays.
  • If something is burning in a pot or pan, don’t try to carry it outside. Trips and spills while transporting burning items result in serious burns for both the carrier and those around them.
  • While cooking, wear short or close-fitting sleeves to avoid catching your clothing on fire.
  • Deep-fried turkeys have become increasingly popular, but extreme caution should be exercised when choosing this method. Turkey fryers should be used outdoors and kept a safe distance away from homes and structures. Never leave the fryer unattended, and do not overfill it with oil.
  • Don’t carry hot foods or liquids while carrying a child or pet, or while kids and pets are underfoot.
  • Any cooking with hot liquids — oils, grease, water, melted sugars, chocolates, etc. — must be done with responsible adult supervision.
  • Keep hot items away from the edge of tables or countertops.
  • Keep children away from chaffing dishes filled with hot water and gel-fueled burners.
  • Take extra precautions when removing large dishes out of the oven; they are often heavier than we're used to and can spill over burning hands, forearms, or others.

Each year, Christmas trees are involved in hundreds of fires. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, Christmas tree fires are not common but are likely to be serious, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property loss and damage. (Fact: One of every three home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.)

Some tips for preventing Christmas tree fires:

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for a "fire resistant" label.
  • Check for freshness when purchasing a live tree. A fresh tree is green; the needles are hard to pull; the trunk should be sticky with resin; and when hit, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • Heated rooms will dry live trees quickly, so keep the stand filled with water. A well-watered tree is usually safe, but dry trees can be ablaze in seconds. Water the tree every day, and remove it from your home after Christmas or once it becomes dry.
  • Place trees at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces, radiators, and space heaters.
  • Never use candles to light or decorate a tree.
  • Don't use electrical ornaments or light strings on artificial trees with metallic leaves or branch coverings.
  • Make sure lights aren't damaged: look for cracked cords, loose connections, damaged sockets, and loose or bare wires. Throw away any strands that are in poor condition.
  • No more than three strands of incandescent lights should be strung together at a time.
  • Make sure to spread lights across multiple electrical outlets to ease the wattage load on them.
  • Use only a single extension cord that can reach your home's outlet without being too long and being tangled.
  • Make sure anything that requires electricity has been tested for safety. Safe holiday decorations will have a label from one of the independent testing laboratories, such as Underwriters Laboratories (see list of federally recognized labs).
  • Make sure lights are off when you go out and before you turn in for the night.

Other reminders to have a safe and prevent burns this holiday season:

  • Do not burn wrapping paper in the fireplace, as it can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Never leave candles unattended, and place them away from trees and other decorations where they cannot be knocked over, and out of reach from children and pets. (Fact: December is the peak time of year for home candle fires.)
  • Keep children away from fireplaces. Many families will place enclosures to keep children away, but those can heat up quickly and little hands can get burned if touched.
  • Throughout the year, test smoke detector batteries and always have a fire extinguisher within easy reach.
  • Use clips, not nails, to hang lights so the cords don't get damaged.
  • Keep matches and lighters up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Blow out lit candles when you leave the room or go to bed.

First-aid for burns: The first-aid treatment for first-degree burns (skin is reddened) and second-degree burns (it's blistered) is the same: Soothe the burn under cool running water long enough to reduce the pain, usually 15 to 20 minutes. Don't put ice directly on a burn. Once the burn cools, apply a moisturizer to the area, but don't use butter, which can cause infection. Cover the burn with sterile gauze. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever. Don't break blisters.  For a severe burn, call 911. Keep the victim calm and move them out of danger. Be sure they're breathing and use CPR if necessary. Loosely cover the burned area with a cool bandage, clean cloth, or plastic wrap.

Watch this video to see just how quickly Christmas tree fires can turn devastating and deadly (video is 1:31 min).

Add new comment