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BBQs and summer go hand-in-hand! For many families, it’s not officially summer until the BBQ has been lit. How lovely! But read this before you light your BBQ to ensure that the evening ends with a quiet night at home instead of a visit to the children’s emergency room.
There are three obvious dangers with BBQs: heat, fire and lighter fluid. We’ll discuss them one by one.
The BBQ is hot. Very hot. It’s the very essence of a barbecue. It’s hot on the inside AND on the outside. Small children can easily reach for and touch the BBQ. Ouch! This can cause serious burns. Always have an adult sit at the grill and guard it. It’s actually a very nice activity! Make sure to change BBQ, salad chopping and diaper duties every now and then. Just to keep yourselves on your toes.
If an accident occurs: rinse the burn in cool (not ice cold) water for at least 10, preferably 20 minutes. If your child gets larger blisters (whole or burst), go to the emergency department. Wrap a clean, damp towel around the burn.
Make sure you have a stable grill. Feel free to test how much force it takes to overturn the grill when it isn’t hot. Some grills tip over just by poking them. You do not want that BBQ to be full of glowing coals and tipped over with or without people nearby.
Glowing coals can easily ignite fluttering clothing fabrics. Watch out for the future scientists (your children) who like to test their hypothesis at the grill when the parents aren’t looking – “I wonder if I can grill napkins / grass / toy cars?”. It is a good idea to have a fire blanket within reach. We also always have a couple of buckets of water next to the grill to pour over a charcoal that jumps out on the patio floor.
Occasionally, children drink lighter fluid. Lighter fluid is very light and volatile. If a child swallows the lighter fluid, or if they swallow then vomit, there is a great risk that it flows down into the child’s lungs. Lighter fluid in the lung causes chemical pneumonia which can be very severe. (This also applies to other similar products such as lamp oil, mineral spirit and more)
We do not use lighter fluid for the grill. We use firelighter cubes instead that consist of compressed wood fibers soaked with vegetable oil. It works well, honestly! The grill is not lit by two pieces (as it says on the package), but with 9-10 pieces. For me, however, it is worth the security of not having lighter fluid in the same home as a lively and curious soon-to-be two-year-old.
If you use lighter fluid, make sure to put it away as soon as you have finished using it. So, children do not reach it. It must be stored in the original bottle with a“childproof” lock. And yes, children can open these locks, so do not trust them! However, they may be a little less likely to do so than a standard screw cap.
If your child ingests lighter fluid, try to keep it in the stomach. It may be a good idea to give some fat to eat/drink, such as cream, or some ice cream. It mixes with the lighter fluid in the stomach and makes it less volatile and less likely to slip into the lungs. But do not force a glass of whipped cream into the child, the risk is only that the child vomits from it. The same goes for activated carbon/ charcoal.
If your child coughs profusely, or becomes dull and has bluish skin: call emergency services and request an ambulance for transport to the pediatric emergency room. If your child seems to be feeling quite well after drinking lighter fluid, go to the pediatric emergency room for assessment in any case, or call the Poisons Information Center for advice.
With that said: grill safely this summer!