Uptick of Kitchen Burns as More People Stayed in and Cooked More During the Pandemic

July 17, 2020

Washington, D.C.,– While government stay-at-home orders helped to slow the spread of the coronavirus, it had some unintended consequences: more people were getting burned in the kitchen. The Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center has seen a nearly four-fold increase in cooking-related burns during the height of COVID-19.

“We saw nearly sixty to seventy percent more volume than we typically have during this time of the year,” said Jeffrey Shupp, MD, director of the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. “About thirty to forty percent of those burns involved cooking accidents. Most were grease related.”

Some of the burn injuries were more severe than usual, requiring hospitalization and surgery. Some patients required intensive care, with some needing skin grafting procedures.

“We don’t exactly know why the number of burn injuries is rising, but we suspect social isolation played a role as more people stayed at home, dabbling in different types of activities that maybe they don’t normally do,” added Dr. Shupp.

Some burn centers across the country have experienced a similar increase.

Dr. Shupp and the Burn Center team share these tips to minimize potential problems from kitchen fires:

  • Keep a functioning fire extinguisher nearby
  • Cover fires with a pot or pan with a lid
  • Do not throw water on cooking fires. That can make them worse
  • Wear proper clothing: Baggy or loose shirts can catch fire when cooking

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MedStar Washington Hospital Center is a 912-bed, major teaching and research hospital. It is the largest private, not-for-profit hospital in the nation’s capital, among the 100 largest hospitals in the nation and a major referral center for treating the most complex cases. Its cardiology program is highly acclaimed and its cardiac surgery program has consistently earned the highest national rating–three stars–from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The Hospital Center operates the Washington region’s first Comprehensive Stroke Center and the District’s only Cardiac Ventricular Assist Device program, both certified by The Joint Commission. The hospital is also home to MedSTAR, a nationally verified level I trauma center with a state-of-the-art fleet of helicopters and ambulances, and also operates the region’s only adult Burn Center.

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