Thanksgiving Meal Prep: 10 Ways Patients Can Avoid Burns

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More than 4000 fires occur every year on Thanksgiving Day, double the average amount of cooking fires.
More than 4000 fires occur every year on Thanksgiving Day, double the average amount of cooking fires.

While Thanksgiving should be a day about spending time with loved ones, too many end up spending the day in the emergency department due to cooking burns. According to the US Fire Administration, more than 4000 fires occur every year on Thanksgiving Day, double the number of home cooking fires on an average day.

The trend of deep-frying Thanksgiving turkeys has caused a rise in these injuries. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 141 serious fires and burns from frying Thanksgiving turkeys in hot oil have been reported in the United States over the last decade. In addition, deep-fryer fires cause an estimated $15 million worth of damage to US property.

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To help patients stay safe while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, Arthur Sanford, MD, a burn surgeon at Loyola University Health System, offers the following tips:

1. Choose a fryer with a lid. Look for newer fryers with sealed lids to prevent oil spills.

2. Keep the fryer outside and away from flammable structures. Place the fryer in an open area away from walls, fences, or other structures. Never use it in, on, or under a garage, carport, porch, deck, or any other structure that can catch on fire. "I have actually cared for a patient who tried to deep fry the turkey indoors, which absolutely should not be done in any circumstances," said Dr. Sanford.

3. Keep children and pets away from cooking areas. "Thanksgiving for many means extra people in the kitchen, close proximity to fire and hot surfaces, added stress to cook many dishes on a tight schedule, the manipulation of a large, heavy turkey, and the use of sharp knives," he said. "It is easy to get distracted and injuries can occur in a flash."

4. Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and dried when placed in hot oil. "I cannot stress enough that the turkey must be moisture-free," said Dr. Sanford. "A frozen turkey in hot oil is a recipe for tragedy." Slowly raise and lower the turkey to reduce hot-oil splatter and to avoid burns, and be especially careful with marinades. Because oil and water don't mix, water can cause oil to spill over, which could create a fire or even an explosion.

5. Don't overfill the fryer with oil. After oil hits the burner, turkey fryers can ignite in seconds.

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