hamburgers and hotdogs cooking on flaming grill
hamburgers and hotdogs cooking on flaming grill

Sun and grill safety should be part of Memorial Day celebrations

May 28, 2021

Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer, which means time with family and friends in the sun.

Whether it is grilling safety or the proper use of sunscreen, the team at Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America wants you to have a safe holiday.

“We know that people want to be outside and celebrate, especially after the last year,” said Beretta Craft-Coffman, PA-C, VP of Non-Physician Providers. “However, your activities need to be tempered with a nod to staying safe.”

One of the most important ways to avoid sunburn is the use of sunscreen, Craft-Coffman said. Make sure you are using sunscreen of at least 35 SPF, and remember that it should be applied 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied regularly, especially if you are sweating profusely or spending time in the water.

Sunscreen isn’t appropriate for children under six months of age, and all children under one year old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Their skin, as well as the skin of older people, is thinner than an adult’s skin, and are more susceptible to getting burned. In general, everyone should avoid tanning for long periods, particularly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“Sunburns are actually caused by UV rays,” said Craft-Coffman. “That means you can get a severe sunburn, even on cloudy days.”

The start of summer also means grilling season for many, which should always include an extra serving of caution on the menu. It starts with setting up a safe, well-ventilated area for the grill that includes a no-kid zone.

“We know kids are curious,” Craft-Coffman said. “The extremely hot outer surface of a grill can cause severe injuries to little hands.”

June sees, on average, the second highest amount of grill fires every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Though gas grills are typically more dangerous, both gas and charcoal grills can be responsible for burn injuries as wells as home, structure, and outdoor fires.

To stay safe, Craft-Coffman recommends:

  • Keeping your grill at least 10 feet away from your house, bushes, or other flammable materials.
  • Never, ever using a match to check for leaks.
  • Finding leaks by spraying soapy water on gas line connections. If you see water bubbles, there is a leak.
  • Never using an accelerant such as gasoline to light a grill, bonfire or debris pile. Gas fumes can ignite and cause a large explosion.
  • Being careful when using lighter fluid. Do not add fluid on an already lit fire because the flames can flashback up into the container and explode.
  • Never trying to light a gas grill with the lid closed, as trapped gas or fumes could cause an explosion.
  • Always wearing short sleeves and/or tight-fitting clothing while grilling.
  • Using utensils with long handles to stay clear of hot surfaces.
  • Always shutting off the propane tank valve when not in use.
  • Disposing of hot coals properly: Soak with water, then stir and soak again to make sure the fire is out.

So what happens if you do get burned? First, check for blisters, as they are signs of a more serious burn and could require emergency medical treatment. If there are blisters, try not to burst any of them. You should make sure there is no swelling of the injured area that could affect breathing, swallowing and/or circulation.

“We always tell people, ‘If you have a question about an injury or are worried about it, seek treatment!’”, said Craft-Coffman. “The earlier we can treat an injury, the better the outcome. We would rather see a burn that doesn’t need intensive treatment than have a patient delay being seen, which could cause more problems down the road.”