Just in time for the end of summer — a BBQ danger

You may want to rethink your use of a wire-bristle brush to clean your BBQ grill, or be extra careful when using it.

What do you use to clean your BBQ grill? Probably a wire-bristle brush — but you may want to rethink that, or be extra careful when using it.

A recent case in Ontario highlights a danger you might not have been aware of.

A six-year-old boy had to be rushed to the emergency room because of pain in his throat. The ER docs had to remove a wire that was stuck there. The wire came from the wire-bristle brush used to clean the family BBQ grill. The small bit of wire had broken off the brush. It was so tiny that it was easily overlooked and became imbedded in the meat cooked on the BBQ. When the boy ate the meat, the metal wire became stuck inside his throat.

He’s actually lucky! A recent review in the journal, Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, revealed that there had been almost 1,700 cases reported in the US between 2002 and 2014 and that a significant number of cases required emergency surgery because the metal had perforated the intestines.

So what should you do?

These small bits of wire are easy to overlook. To reduce the risk — if you are going to use a wire-bristle brush — please check it to make certain the wire bristles are in good shape; otherwise replace the brush. After using it, wipe down the grill to get rid of any wire fragments. Alternatively, you can use another method to properly clean your grill.

In any case, should someone develop sudden throat, mouth, chest or tummy pain while eating something that has been cooked on the BBQ, remember to share that vital bit of information with the doctor. These metal fragments are notoriously difficult to find and if we don’t know that they might be there in the first place, they would be easy to miss. Just ask the poor woman out east who wasn’t diagnosed for so long that in the end they were unable to remove the wire. She has had to wait for scar tissue to form around it to stop the pain that she was enduring — certainly something that we’d all like to avoid.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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