When you think of holiday burn prevention, a lot of it focuses on making sure candles aren’t left unsupervised and placed far away from flammable holiday decorations (looking at your poorly watered Christmas trees and fake autumn leaf displays).

Today, I want to talk to you about preventing burns and scald burns in the kitchen as you prepare holiday meals!

Tip 1: Stay Calm!

Large meals with family and friends is one of the best parts of the holiday season. However, with so many people running around the kitchen and a lot of people cooking who may not be confident in the kitchen, there is a high risk for burns!

If you feel rushed and anxious, you are more likely to make a mistake in the kitchen. A small spill can cause a serious scald burn. Take a deep breath. When you are cooking, work deliberately and with confidence. If you start to feel overwhelmed, take a moment to yourself (though be sure to turn down temperatures so nothing burns on the stove!), or ask someone you trust to stay calm and in charge to take over in the kitchen for a bit.

It’s better for dinner to be delayed than to spend the night at the hospital eating cafeteria food instead!

Tip 2: Make the kitchen your domain.

Between pets, children, and Great-Aunt Sadie commenting on your gravy, there can be a lot of people underfoot.

Studies have shown that 85-90% of scald burns are related directly to cooking, drinking, or serving hot liquids. A liquid doesn’t have to be boiling (212° F) to cause a scald burn. Seconds of exposure to water at 140° F can cause a burn serious enough to require surgery!

It is perfectly acceptable to banish everyone from your cooking space. This can limit the risk of tripping over the cat and spilling hot turkey drippings on Cousin Chuck and ruining more than his nice flannel.

Children are also at increased risk for scald burns as they are have thinner layers of skin and can have a more serious burn at a lower temperature and at shorter period of exposure. In an already hectic kitchen, children can be hard to keep track of and a spill of hot water as you drain the potatoes for mashing can cause a serious scald burn.

So go ahead and claim the kitchen as your area and shoo any non-essential or high risk individuals out of the room!

Tip 3: Arrange your stove and counter like it’s the most important decoration!

In a way, it’s true! With food images popping up all over Instagram, the way you layout your food on the counter can ensure safety and a great picture.

Remember to

  • Place hot liquids and foods in the center of the table or toward the back of the counter. Let things that are cold or cooler hang out around the edges.
  • If there are young children around, skip the towels and tablecloths under the hot liquids. One good tug and not only is the dinner on the floor, but you now get to have a family carpool to the hospital.

On your stove, focus on keeping handles facing inward. If they are hanging over the edge, little hands are more likely to grab them, or for a person passing by to accidentally hit them.

Additionally, if the food is the decoration that means you don’t need any other decorations hanging around your cooking space. Keep all towels, potholders, and cute holiday décor far away from anything that gets hot. This includes, stoves, ovens, toasters/toaster ovens, coffee makers, etc.

Tip 4: Be Prepared!

Not only should you make sure that all your smoke detectors are properly working, but you should also review your first aid supplies and where they are kept. Being able to respond quickly to an injury is important.

If a scald burn occurs in your kitchen, you want to treat it right away. Cool the burned area by placing it under cool or lukewarm running water for 3 to 5 minutes. Scald burns are not mashed potatoes, so keep the butter far away! On the same note, don’t apply ice or lotions to the burn either.

Cover the area of the scald with a clean dry cloth. If the burn is large or looks bad, contact a medical provider or call 911.

Hopefully these tips help you and your family have a happy, healthy, and most importantly, injury-free meals this holiday season!

Abby Beerman is an injury prevention coordinator at University of Vermont Medical Center and Children’s Hospital. She also has real experience with common kitchen injuries due to a love of cooking and baking, and the scars to prove it.

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