Thanksgiving is the #1 day of the year for kitchen fires and the days leading up to Thanksgiving and afterward also see an increase in trips to the hospital ER for burns and scalds, as well as wounds from carving the turkey.
“The most important safety precaution in the kitchen is constant, close, attentive supervision,” said Mandi Summers, co-coordinator, Safe Kids of Western Massachusetts led by Baystate Children’s Hospital. “Simply being in the same room with the child is not necessarily supervising. An actively supervised child is in sight and in reach at all times.”
Summers noted burns from spills, steam, hot surfaces and flame can be especially devastating injuries. “Because young children have thinner skin than adults, they burn more severely and at lower temperatures,” she said.
Scald burns from hot liquid or steam are the most common type of burns among children ages four and under. A child will suffer a full-thickness burn (third-degree burn) after just three seconds of exposure to 140-degree water, and will need surgery and skin grafts.
According to Dr. Lisa Patterson, director, Trauma Services, Baystate Medical Center, first degree burns are similar to a sunburn where the skin is red and painful, but there are no blisters. Second degree burns are painful and result in a blistering of the skin, and third degree burns are full thickness skin loss, and may not be painful because nerve endings are destroyed. Second and third degree burns should be cared for by a health professional. Proper wound care is important to prevent infection, as the skin is a barrier to bacteria. Once the skin is burnt, there is an increased risk of infection.
If your child has a burn, Dr. Patterson recommends:
• Removing clothing from the burned area as long as it has not stuck to the skin.
• Soak or run cool, not icy cold, water over the burn until the pain lessens.
• Do not put ice, any ointments or butter on the burn, and do not break any blisters.
• Lightly apply a sterile dressing over the area, then call your pediatrician for
further instructions based on the severity of the burn.
And, always “think prevention,” said Dr. Patterson.
Safe Kids recommends the following precautions against kitchen burns:
• Never leave a hot stove unattended. Unattended food on the stove is the number one cause of home fires.
• Never hold a child while cooking or carrying hot items.
• Cook on back burners whenever possible, and turn all handles toward the back of the stove.
• Don’t allow loose-fitting clothing in the kitchen.
• Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edges of counters and tables. Be especially careful around tablecloths – kids can pull hot dishes down onto themselves.
Children who can follow directions may be ready to help out in the kitchen with tasks that do not involve knives, appliances or heat. “You know your own children. Don’t give them knives or let them handle anything hot until they have shown the maturity and coordination to do it safely,” said Summers. “Some children mature faster than others, so it’s up to parents to use good judgment about each child’s capabilities.”
Even knives in the hands of adults can be dangerous when carving the holiday turkey, noted Dr. Pranay Parikh, a plastic surgeon and hand specialist at Baystate Medical Center.
“Fortunately, most cuts are minor and the bleeding can be stopped simply by applying pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. Deeper cuts which may involve more serious nerve and tendon injuries, which do not stop bleeding after a short time, will require a visit to the emergency room,” said Dr. Parikh.
The Baystate plastic surgeon offered the following suggestions to keep your hands and fingers from serious injury when turkey carving this holiday season:
• To avoid injury, don’t slice the turkey by cutting toward yourself. While slicing, keep your free hand away from the knife and never place it under the sharp blade in an attempt to catch the meat.
• Use a sharp knife – a dull utensil will require more force to cut the meat risking greater injury. And, consider purchasing an electric knife to get the job done with greater ease.
• Be careful for sharp blades when washing utensils in the sink along with dishes.
• Trade your knife for sheers to cut turkey bones and joints during cleanup.
For more information about kitchen safety and burn prevention, call Safe Kids at Baystate Children’s Hospital at 413-794-6510 or visit safekids.org. Also, for more information on Baystate Children’s Hospital, visit baystatehealth.org/bch, or for more
information on plastic surgery at Baystate Medical Center, visit