The Grilling Mistake That Can Send You to the Emergency Room

It's doesn't involve the food itself.

Summer means burgers sizzling on the grill. And with that comes lots of potential injuries.

How? Researchers who analyzed data from 2002 through 2014 found it suggested as many as 1,700 cases of people going to emergency departments around the United States with injuries from wire bristles used to clean grills.

Bristles can get stuck in the grate of a grill, and if unnoticed, wind up in the next batch of burgers. Then they can wind up caught in someone’s throat or lodged in the intestinal tract.

“I wouldn’t call it a common thing,” says Dr. David Chang, M.D., an ear, nose, and throat specialist at University of Missouri Health Care and a study co-author. “But it may be something that people aren’t aware of or that doesn’t pop up on their radar.”

So how can you keep your grill clean without leaving potentially dangerous bristles behind? Dr. Chang recommends that if you do use a wire bristle brush, make sure it’s in good condition and that the bristles aren’t falling off. Then after cleaning, inspect the grill to look for any stray bristles. Find out some other ways you might be using your grill wrong.

Or you could skip the wire altogether and go with some recommendations from Consumer Reports, such as a steel wool brush or a pumice stone. Or try a nylon or a wooden scraper, or a cleaning spray. Looking for a more DIY method? Wad up some tin foil, place it between some tongs, scrape the grill. You may also want to combine several of the methods or try an electronic Grillbot. The upshot? No need to give up the barbecue, just consider some safer options when you’re cleaning up. Now get started with this foolproof guide to grilling.

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Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.