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Preventing burns during the holiday season

WINSTON-SALEM – Whether burning leaves or cooking for the holidays, this time of year presents many potential burn and fire dangers. The burning ban has not stopped some people from burning leaves and debris on their property.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center sees patients from not only North Carolina, but several other states. In many cases, these injuries could have been easily prevented.

“More than half of our burn patients are injured while burning leaves or brush, because they made the mistake of using gasoline to start the fire,” said James H. Holmes IV, M.D., burn surgeon and medical director of Wake Forest Baptist’s Burn Center. “If you feel you must use a fire starter – and I would prefer you don’t – consider using diesel, kerosene or charcoal starter. They will start a fire just fine and are much safer than gasoline.”

While most first- and second-degree burns heal with simple wound care, third-degree burns usually require skin grafts and expert care from a burn center.

Holmes also offers these tips to help ensure your family has a safe holiday season and avoids a trip to the Burn Center:

When cooking:

•  Teach children to stay away from the stove, the fireplace and the barbecue grill. Establish a no-go zone for children of at least two feet around these heat sources.

•  Turn the handles of pots and pans inward over the stove top so a child can’t reach up and grab the handles, pulling the hot ingredients down on them.

• For the same reason, keep coffee pots and other hot liquids out of reach and away from the edge of the counter.

•  Exercise extreme caution if using a turkey fryer to avoid grease spilling out onto the flame. Carefully follow the directions on proper use.

When decorating:

•  Always keep candles out of the reach of children. Place them in a stable holder and extinguish them before leaving the room or going to bed.

•   Keep Christmas trees watered to avoid drying out and keep them away from heat sources.

When you lose power:

• Never use a gas oven for heat.

• If using a kerosene heater, understand the safety recommendations and follow the instructions. Keep it away from curtains, bedding, furniture, etc.

Other burn prevention tips:

•  Set the temperature on your hot water heater to 120 degrees or less.

•  Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke detectors.

•  Practice an exit plan with your family. Taking the time for a fire drill could save your life or the lives of your children.

“I realize that life comes with risks, but if people will stop and think about what they’re doing, they can avoid a horribly painful injury or even death,” said Holmes. “Even though we provide exceptional care here at Wake Forest Baptist’s Burn Center, you don’t want to be our patient.”



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