UPMC Mercy Recognizes National Burn Awareness Week with “Burning Issues in the Kitchen”

By: Sierra Lomax

Burns and other injuries in the kitchen are common, and the cause is usually due to multi-tasking. This observation is from the experts at UPMC Mercy Burn Center, who join the American Burn Association (ABA) in observing National Burn Awareness Week, Feb. 6-12. ABA’s theme this year is “Burning Issues in the Kitchen” as 47% of all home fires are caused by cooking mishaps. According to the American Red Cross, fires break out year-round, but the majority in the United States occur during winter — when conditions for battling them are likely to be at their worst.

Each year, UPMC Mercy Burn Center treats more than 950 burn patients with varying degrees severity. The UPMC Mercy Burn Center was the first burn center in Pennsylvania, and one of the first in the U.S. As the only burn and level 1 trauma center under one roof in western PA, UPMC Mercy can care for the most critically injured patients that most other hospitals can’t.

“Many of the burns and injuries we see are preventable by using caution and thoughtfulness. Don’t rush or multi-task in the kitchen,” said Dr. Jenny Ziembicki, director of the UPMC Mercy Burn Center.

Mercy patient and burn survivor Brian Young, 48, was treated at UPMC Mercy last October after suffering burns due to a grease spill. After cooking dinner, Brian left a pot with grease on the stove to cool. However, the electric stove was not turned off. He went to bed and woke up to smoke engulfing his house.

Brian helped his family get outside safely but while he tried to remove the pot it caught on fire. “I grabbed a pair of gloves from my laundry room. It was so smoky in there and I was choking. I went out the front door and went toward the steps when the grease splashed on me, and I slipped,” he said.

The New Kensington family had suffered a home fire previously and were better prepared to keep the smoke from spreading. “I have a fire extinguisher but the pot hadn’t combusted yet so I thought I could just remove it.”

Brian sustained burns to his face and his body and was rushed to the hospital. “My wife called the ambulance immediately and they flew me to UPMC Mercy, and the staff took care of me and put me back together,” he shared.

Brian said he believes that fire safety should be taught to everyone especially children, so they become familiar with how dangerous cooking can potentially be and know how to prevent injuries.

 Here are some helpful tips to prevent fires and injuries in the kitchen:

• Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave, turn off the stove.
• Turn pot or pan handles toward the back of the stove.
• Remain in the home while food is cooking and use a timer to remind you to check on your food.
• After cooking, check the kitchen to make sure all burners and other appliances are turned off.
• NEVER move a pot or carry it outside – the pot is too hot to handle, and the contents may splash, causing a severe burn.

For more than 50 years, the UPMC Mercy Trauma and Burn Center has provided comprehensive care for burn victims of all ages.

Accidental burns are a leading cause of household injuries. If someone in your home sustains a minor burn, remember these important tips:

•Stop the burning process and cover any open areas in a clean cloth.
•Remove any jewelry or clothing in proximity to the burn.
•Do not apply ice and do not break blisters.

For more information about burn treatments, visit the UPMC Mercy Burn Center.