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Staying Safe at Your Summer Barbecue

Staying Safe at Your Summer Barbecue

As more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, we’re excited to see the return of those favorite summer activities—like hosting backyard barbecues. Cookouts can be a wonderful way to not only enjoy healthy eating habits (grilling some delicious farm-fresh veggies), but also the company of friends and family as you soak up the sunshine and fresh air, play games in the yard, and more.

But to make the most of your time, you’ll want to do your best to prevent common injuries and illnesses. No one wants their party ruined by burns, sunstroke, fire, or food poisoning. Run through these helpful tips to check your setup and make sure your barbecue isn’t a health risk.

Grill Safety

You can already smell those wonderful smells coming from the grill, but be careful—over 10,000 home fires per year are started by outdoor grills, and over 19,000 people per year end up in the ER because of grill-related injuries. These are preventable accidents most of the time, so it’s worth taking the time to get your setup right:

  • Keep your grill on a flat, level surface that’s at least 10 feet from any overhang. Keep the area clear of decorations and far enough from social spaces.
  • Clean your grill thoroughly and often. Grease buildup can start a fire.
  • Never start a gas grill with the lid closed—it can create a fireball when you open it.
  • Never leave a hot grill unsupervised, especially with children or pets around. Remember, grills stay hot for a long time after you’re done using them.
  • Over-crowding your cooking surface with meat can cause a grease fire if too much fat drips into the flames.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or a bucket of sand close by.
  • If a grease fire starts, first try to cover it to smother the flames; turn off the heat source if you can; use baking soda or salt to extinguish the fire. Never put water on a grease fire.

Food Safety

Your grilling area isn’t just a danger zone for fires or burns. Cross-contamination is also a possibility and can make everyone very sick. Make sure that everyone who handles food takes the following precautions in an effort to maintain appropriate food safety:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and with soap anytime you touch raw meat, pets, or a dirty surface. Singing “Happy Birthday” twice is a good way to make sure you’re washing long enough.
  • Keep raw meat separate from other food; use a dedicated cutting board, knives, and platters. Never re-use a raw meat platter for cooked meat or save marinade from raw meat to use on cooked meat.
  • Keep cold foods cold, especially anything with eggs or mayonnaise. Put these dishes in the fridge or in a cooler with ice.
  • Keep hot foods hot. Use a meat thermometer to ensure your meats are cooked to a safe temperature and pace your cooking, so everyone’s eating meat fresh off the grill. Consider using steam trays or other heating elements.
  • Watch out for flies and other pests landing on your food. Invest in some mesh “food umbrellas” to cover dishes or keep them covered with plastic or foil.

First Aid for Burns

Even if you consider yourself a grill master, burns can still happen. Thankfully, most minor burns can be treated with simple at-home first aid treatments. Make sure you have everything on hand to act fast in case of a burn injury:

  • Cool it down. The first step in treating a first-degree burn is to cool the area with cool water or a wet compress. Ice can be too intense for the injured area.
  • Remove any jewelry, clothes, or accessories from the area right away before it swells.
  • Don’t apply anything to the burn (lotion, butter, etc.). Cover it lightly in sterile, non-stick dressings.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be taken if needed.
  • Call 911 immediately if the skin looks charred, if the burn seems deeper than the surface layers, or if the victim is an infant or a senior.
  • For a second-degree burn (affecting the second layer of skin), follow the steps above, then treat the victim for shock and call a doctor.
  • For a third-degree burn, don’t use water. Just cover the burn with sterile dressings (keeping fingers and toes separated), treat the victim for shock, call 911, and monitor the victim until help arrives.

Sun, Water, and Safe Play

Making sure that you and your guests stay safe at your backyard barbecue means thinking through all the hazards that you might encounter, taking steps to prevent them, and being prepared to handle a first aid situation. Here are a few final tips to ensure that your cookout is safe and fun for all:

  • Check your first aid kit to make sure all its contents are in place. Put it in an easy-to-grab location.
  • Provide plenty of broad-spectrum, high SPF sunscreen. Be sure to re-apply every couple of hours.
  • Keep lots of cold water available. Make sure everyone’s staying hydrated, especially if they’re drinking alcohol.
  • Are you up-to-date on your first-aid skills? Download the Red Cross’s free first aid app, which gives you steps to follow for common emergencies.
  • If any of your guests are allergic to stinging insects, ask them to show you what to do if they get stung and need your help.
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Keep an eye on your guests so you can get them out of the sun and treated if you see danger signs.
  • If you have a pool, make sure someone who knows CPR and can help a drowning person supervises swim time.

By planning ahead, using the safety tips above, your backyard gathering will be setup for success and allow everyone the opportunity to enjoy it to the fullest. However, in the event of a more serious accident, don’t hesitate to get immediate help. Learn about our Wound Care services and what we can do for you in the event of severe burns or injuries. If you have any questions about wound care, please call us at 240-566-3840.

Here's to safe, healthy, and worry-free summer!