Burn risks increase at Thanksgiving

(WTVM) - For the burn professionals at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center, it has become a Thanksgiving tradition that accompanies the turkey and all the trimmings: an increase in the number of burn patients.

From cooking accidents to house fires, the causes are numerous, said Dr. Fred Mullins, who serves as the president of Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., and the medical director of the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, GA – the largest burn center in America.

"If there is a common thread among the majority of our burn patients, it is that they let their guard down for just a second," he said. "Whether they got a little distracted making dinner or were careless in the kitchen, the results can be devastating."

Avoiding such incidents just takes a little preparation. For example, establish the kitchen as a kids-free zone before cooking even begins.

"Burns to children are usually more severe and the scars from their injuries can last their entire lives," Dr. Mullins said. "Each year, we see injuries from children who touched a hot stovetop, or have pulled a pot of hot food down on top of themselves."

If a child does come in the kitchen, make sure all pot handles are turned inward and any appliances that get hot, like toaster ovens, are well out of their reach. Also, keep a close eye on cooking surfaces to ensure that flammable items like potholders, containers and food wrappers are not too close.

Taking the cooking outside – to fry a turkey, for example – does not lessen the danger or diminish the need to be careful, Dr. Mullins said. It starts at the grocery store, where you should purchase a turkey that is less than 12 pounds.

But most important is the level of the oil in the fryer. Most accidents occur when the turkey is placed in a pot that is too full, the oil spills over the side and into the flame, causing a fire.

Dr. Mullins said there's a simple way to ensure the correct amount of oil is in the pot. First, place the turkey in the empty pot. Then slowly fill the pot with water. When the water level reaches 2 inches above the turkey, pull the bird out and then measure the water level. Pour out the water, dry the pot and then fill to the measured level with oil.

Other fried turkey tips include:

• Check the turkey to make sure it is not partially frozen and does not have any excess water on it. The water can cause hot oil to splatter. It also helps to pat down the bird with a paper towel to remove excess moisture.

• The fryer should be used on a well-ventilated, level, outdoor surface.

• Make sure the pot is never left unattended, and children and pets are kept at a safe distance.

• Use only peanut, canola or safflower oils in the fryer.

• Use care when touching the handles of the pot.

• Make sure the deep fryer has a thermostat to regulate the temperature of the oil.

• Slowly lower the turkey into the pot to avoid spillage.

• Make sure a fire extinguisher is nearby that can put out a grease fire, just in case an accident occurs. Water should never be used to try to extinguish a grease or oil fire. Always call 911 in the event of a fire.

• Remember that it may take several hours for the oil in a deep fryer to cool.

• Avoid excessive alcohol drinking when using a deep-fryer.

For best results, Dr. Mullins recommends following the advice of both the American Burn Association and the National Fire Protection Association.

"Leave the turkey frying to the professionals," he said.

For more information about Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc., please call Jason B. Smith at 706-855-6809 or 706-832-7592.

About Joseph M. Still Burn Centers, Inc.

Founded in 1978, the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta is the largest burn center in the United States. Located at Doctors Hospital, the burn center and its affiliated Joseph M. Still Advanced Wound & Burn Clinic care for thousands of patients annually. Other JMS Burn Centers are also located in Austell, Ga., Brandon, Ms., Charleston, S.C., and Valdosta, Ga.

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