A backyard barbecue can be considered one of the sights and smells of summer, and safety must remain a top priority when using charcoal and propane grills. More than 16,000 people go to an emergency room each year because of a grilling incident, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). About half of those injuries are burns.

HSHS St. Mary's medical experts say most burns are at a first-degree level, which means it affects the outer layer of skin and can be treated at home with cool (not ice cold) water, aloe and over-the-counter ibuprofen or aspirin.

More serious second- and third-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin and the underlying tissue which can cause swelling, blistering and blackened skin, and may require hospitalization if the skin cells are damaged.

HSHS St. Mary's and the CPSC recommend these 10 grilling safety tips:

  • Clean your grill often. A buildup of grease and fat can cause a fire.
  • Do not use a wire bristle brush to clean. Bristles may stick to the grilling surface and get into food which may cause a choking hazard.
  • Keep kids and pets away from the grill and keep the grill itself at least 10 feet away from buildings and trees.
  • Inspect a propane grill’s hose for cracking, holes and leaks each time before lighting the grill.
  • Open the grill lid before lighting.
  • Never leave a grill unattended.
  • Use only charcoal starter fluid for a charcoal grill – never gasoline.
  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of a fire and have baking soda on hand to control a grease fire.
  • Put a grill pad under your grill to stabilize the base and catch grease or food particles that drop.
  • Do not get shirt sleeves, apron strings and long hair too close to the grill when it’s lit.

If a burn happens and you are unsure what type of burn it is, you should treat it like a major burn and seek medical care right away. 

St. Mary’s Hospital’s emergency department, 1800 E. Lake Shore Drive in Decatur, is open 24/7 to provide care when needed.

For more helpful information about food and grilling safety, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Additional information about burns can be found at the National Institute of Health website.

Media Contact

Andrew Dilbeck

HSHS Illinois
Office: 217-464-5610

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