Safety on the Menu

Have a Good — and Accident-free — Time Grilling This Season
After being cooped up in the house all winter, it’s only natural to want to get outside with family and friends and enjoy some outdoor recreation. That usually means a tasty meal cooked on an outdoor grill with plenty of cool drinks to wash it all down.
As carefree as it might sound, it’s not without a few risks. According to the National Fire Protection Assoc. (NFPA), 16,600 patients sought emergency-room treatment for injuries sustained while grilling outdoors during one recent year. Don’t turn your party into a panic; there are simple safety tips you can follow to help make sure your good time isn’t ruined.
Burgers, Burns, and Blisters
Grilling season can also be burn season, due to the widespread use of grills during outdoor parties. Burns are the most common injury associated with grilling. The NFPA says that more than half of grill-related ER visits are for thermal burns. Be particularly aware if the burn involves a small child or a senior citizen.
Oh, and that old wives tale about applying butter to a burn — don’t do it! The butter will only slow the release of heat from your skin, making the pain worse. Also, avoid icing the wound. It slows blood flow to the area and can damage tissue further.
Fire and Smoke
How many times have you lifted the lid to your grill to check on your chow only to see a wall of flames billowing up toward you? Corneal burns (burns to the surface of the eye) aren’t common, but they can happen. You’re better off letting an expert take a look.
Also, beware under-the-lid smoke. Lifting off that lid to look at your lamb chops only to inhale a lungful of smoke usually will land you with a fit of coughing, not necessarily a trip to urgent care. But if you find you continue to have trouble breathing, it’s best to get checked out.
Careful Cutting
Not all cookout injuries happen outside by the grill. Some of them happen during the prep. It’s tempting to talk and enjoy spending time with your friends while you’re preparing foods, but when it comes to cutting or chopping, you’re better off paying close attention. The National Food Service Management Institute provides some simple safety tips for using a knife:
• Always use a cutting board. You might consider putting a dish towel underneath the board to keep it from slipping.
• Sharper blades are safer than dull ones. Dull blades cause more accidents because they require more pressure to work with.
• Choose the correct size knife for the job.
• Don’t hold food while you cut it, and keep your fingers on top of the blade.
• Keep knife handles free of grease or other slippery ingredients.
• Never try to catch a falling knife. To hand a knife to someone else, place it on the counter and let them pick it up.
• Wash knives immediately. Never put them in a sink of soapy water. Always store them in a block or case, never in a drawer.
A deep cut or puncture will necessitate a visit to the emergency room for evaluation and treatment. In case of accidental amputation, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges you to first gently clean the amputated part with water or a sterile solution. Next, cover it with a moistened gauze wrap and place it in a watertight bag. Finally, put the bag on ice. Do not allow the amputated part to be in direct contact with ice, which could damage it further.
Wire Brush Warning
Keeping your grill clean is a simple way to keep the food you cook on it safe and reduce the chance of fire flare-ups, but did you know that what you use to clean your grill with could be dangerous?
A study published by the American Academy of Otolaryngology (head and neck surgeons) found that injuries caused by wire-bristle grill brushes were uncommon, but prevalent enough for consumers to be made aware of the dangers associated with their use. Basically, they found that vigorous scrubbing of the grill with the wire-bristle brush could cause some of those bristles to be left behind on the grill. If you don’t notice them, they can stick to the food you’re cooking and become accidentally ingested. 

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