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8 Grilling Safety Tips for Summer Cookouts

Nothing says summer like a backyard barbecue, but the party can quickly turn from festive to frightening if something goes awry when you’re grilling those burgers and hot dogs. Nearly 20,000 people a year went to hospital emergency departments because of injuries associated with grilling between 2014 and 2018. Most of these injuries were burns caused by grill fires. 

Knowing how to grill safely -- and what to do if you get hurt – will ensure your next backyard party is a success. 

Common Grilling Hazards 

Burns caused by fire or contact with a hot surface are the most common grilling injuries. Children under 5, who may bump into, accidentally touch or fall onto the grill, account for about a third of those injuries. 

Smoke inhalation is another hazard when grilling. This happens when you grill with the hood down, because smoke accumulates that you then breathe in when lifting the hood. Signs you may have inhaled too much smoke include coughing, shortness of breath, hoarseness and headache. 

Grilling Safety Tips 

To prevent fire and injury, keep these tips in mind before you light the grill: 

● Don’t drink and grill. You don’t want to be impaired while grilling, so save your alcoholic beverages for when you’re done. 

● Position your grill at least 10 feet away from any structures and overhangs like roof lines. If the grill fire flares, the structure won’t catch flame. 

● Gear up for grilling. Wear a heavy apron and mitts. Use long-handled tools like tongs and turning forks designed for grilling. 

● Keep the grill clean and maintained. Make sure your grill is in good working order and clean the grease pan in the bottom of the grill regularly to avoid grease buildup that can catch fire. 

● Keep gas grill hoods open. Light your gas grill immediately after turning it on with the hood open. If you wait — even just for a minute or two — gas will build up and ignite in a flare when you light the grill. 

● Steady charcoal grills. Make sure your charcoal grill is sturdy and put it on an even surface to avoid tipping over. 

● Minimize lighter fluid. Don't overload your grill with charcoal and use only enough lighter fluid to start the initial flame. Dousing the coals in lighter fluid creates fumes that can ignite. Never ever use alcohol, gasoline or kerosene to light your charcoal grill. 

● Have safety equipment on hand. Keep a fire extinguisher or baking soda around to put out any fires. If the grill catches fire, turn off the gas or close the lid on the grill. 

Injured While Grilling? Here’s What To Do 

If you get burned while grilling, the first thing to do is to stop, drop and roll if your clothing is on fire or put a towel over the burning area. 

Next, run the burn under lukewarm water to ease the pain. Make sure to wash any dirt or other debris from the wound, then wrap it in something clean. 

If the burn is small and red but not blistering, treat it at home with antibiotic ointment and a clean, dry bandage. Make sure to watch for signs of infection like worsening pain, redness or swelling. 

If the burn is large, badly blistered or on your face or joints, seek medical care at the nearest emergency room. 

You should also head to the ER if you’re experiencing symptoms of smoke exhalation like coughing or difficulty breathing.

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