Watch CBS News

Don't get burned by these Thanksgiving cooking hazards

Thanksgiving means lot of time in the kitchen with family and friends pitching in to help prepare the feast. But with so much food cooking in the oven, on multiple stovetop burners and even in deep fryers, accidents are common and can result in burn injuries ranging from minor to severe.

Cooking burns are common year round, experts say, but there appears to be a spike around the holidays.

"We see them a lot," Dr. Robert Sheridan, an emergency physician at the trauma, emergency surgery and critical care department at Massachusetts General Hospital and chief of the burn surgery service at Shriner's Hospital for Children, told CBS News. "It's a common undercurrent all the time but during holiday cooking, there are definitely more scenarios for it to happen, especially with the pans carrying heavy turkeys and really hot grease."

In fact, the National Fire Protection Association reports that in 2013, Thanksgiving Day was the leading day for home cooking fires with 1,550 across the country. That's 230 percent above the average number of fires per day.

How injuries happen

Not every burn injury is caused by a fire, and even small mishaps can lead to painful wounds.

So, what are the most common culprits? Obvious ones include accidentally coming into contact with hot pots or pans and getting splashed with scalding oil from a dish being fried on the stovetop.

But another hazard people may not think about, experts say, is wearing loose-fitting clothing too close to the flame.

"One of the most horrible burns we see is what we call a 'granny burn,'" Dr. James Gallagher, a burn surgeon at the William Randolph Hearst Burn Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine, told CBS News. "So many times, older people are wearing loose-fitting clothing, like a house dress, and they might be making something on the stove and the flames are lapping up around the pot and they don't notice it and the sleeve will catch fire."

Another common injury is a burn that occurs from a spilling accident. "A lot of times people will get burned on their feet. We see this a lot with restaurant workers," Gallagher said. "When you're holding the turkey, oil can spill over from the side of the pan. When you think about the tops of your feet, it's very thin so it doesn't take much to do real damage."

Deep frying turkeys has become a popular trend in recent years, but submerging a raw bird in a vat of hot oil comes with its share of hazards. "You have this boiling oil and it boils the turkey, but if you're not careful, it can boil you, too," Sheridan said.

And especially on big holidays like Thanksgiving, when the house is full of little ones running around, adults in the kitchen and dining room need to be extra cautious. "Around the holidays, people may be using more formal stuff in the dining room like tablecloths or skirts where a little kid can be pulling, and we see hot pots, soup bowls, candles, all these things can come crashing down on a little child and cause scalding burns," Gallagher said.

Get the right treatment

If you or a child does get burned, experts say to run the affected skin under cold water immediately. While old wives' tales call for coating a burn in butter, honey or other household remedies, experts say these are ineffective and unnecessarily messy. What's more, if these items are contaminated in any way, they can lead to infection.

After 10 minutes of cool water, apply a first aid burn cream or petroleum jelly and a bandage.

Some burns, however, require more medical treatment. "If you're looking at a burn that's bigger than the palm of your hand, I would say consider going to the hospital," Gallagher said. "If you start to see blistering where skin is coming off, certainly that's a reasonable time to come to the hospital."

If clothes catch on fire, experts recommend that you "stop, drop and roll" to put out the flames, then remove the clothing immediately and get into the bath with cool water.

If you're unsure if you should seek immediate medical treatment, Gallagher recommends calling your local emergency department or urgent care center for advice.

Plan ahead to prevent injuries

To prevent burn injuries from occurring in the first place, there are several precautions you can take.

When transporting hot dishes -- particularly the large turkey pan -- enlist someone with good upper body strength to carry it, slowly and steadily. Make sure their path is clear and unobstructed.

If you're deep frying your turkey this year, carefully read and follow all the safety instructions provided with your fryer.

Always be mindful of where young children are and keep them out of the kitchen when cooking is going on. Avoid placing hot items on tables or surfaces with long tablecloths that children may be tempted to pull.

Finally, although preparing a large meal can be stressful, experts recommend slowing down while cooking to make sure you and your guests have a happy, safe holiday.

"Really take your time in the kitchen, try not to get too stressed and be mindful of what you're doing," Gallagher said. "Burns are so common, I think people can get a false sense that they're not that serious, but they can be."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.