Using this popular grilling tool sends people to the emergency room every summer

Clean the grill for the summer? It's officially backyard barbecue season. On the weekend of Memorial Daymany people are preparing to host or attend cookouts to celebrate with family and friends.

Wire grill brushes may seem like an effective way to clean off charred dirt and grease before grilling, but they can do more harm than good. Some experts consider wire brushes to be so risky that they recommend throwing them away immediately. Because?

Even when these brushes are used correctly, the wire bristles can break and get stuck to grates and grill surfaces, where they can then end up in your food. When eaten, wire bristles can cause a variety of injuries and even life-threatening complications.

In fact, a 2016 study published in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery estimated that 1,700 people visited the emergency room due to wire grill brush injuries between 2002 and 2014. The most common location of the injuries was the back back of the mouth, including the back of the throat. Throat, palate, tongue and uvula areas.

As people continue to enjoy summer and outdoor barbecue season, a doctor is warning about the dangers of this common barbecue accessory.

Dr. Meghan Martin, a pediatric emergency physician at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, shared her story about treating one of these wire grill brush injuries in a now-viral TikTok video.

Martin, who uses the username @Beachgem10, posted the video in February and so far it has garnered more than 40 million views. “One of my most interesting cases has a lesson that could save your life,” she wrote in the caption.

Several years ago, a 4-year-old boy came to the emergency room complaining of pain, Martin tells .com. The boy was outside with his family when he suddenly grabbed his ear and started crying. “At first his parents thought he had been stung by a bee in the ear,” says Martin.

The boy's ear and throat exams were normal, he says, so he was sent home with ibuprofen and numbing ear drops. Over the next few days, Martin says the boy visited his pediatrician and an ear, nose and throat doctor, whose exams were also normal.

A few days later, when the pain still hadn't subsided, the boy's family took him to the hospital again, Martin says. Doctors did a non-contrast CT scan of the mastoid area next to his ear and couldn't find anything, he says, so they sent him home.

About 10 days after his initial visit, the boy was in the emergency room again, says Martin, who saw the patient for the first time on this third trip. “At that point, he didn't want to eat or drink anything and he started having some fevers,” says Martin, adding that he also developed discomfort and swelling on the right side of his throat.

“We did every test we could think of,” says Martin, which included a contrast-enhanced CT scan of the boy's entire neck. Contrast is a substance given orally or intravenously, allowing the organ or tissue being examined to be seen more clearly on a scan, according to Johns Hopkins. The CT scan finally gave the doctors an answer.

“It was a 2-centimeter metal wire that was lodged in the tissue of the tonsils,” Martin says, adding that the wire was so deep that it was not visible during the throat exam.

“At that point he started developing a little infection around him, which is the body's response to that foreign object, but we were able to get him out and he made a full recovery,” Martin says.

Later, Martin says doctors learned that the boy's symptoms began while eating at a barbecue. The 2-centimeter metal wire was a bristle from a wire barbecue brush, which broke and ended up on a hamburger.

It's not the first time Martin has treated a child who ate the bristles of a wire grill brush, he says, and it's likely that these injuries are much more common (among both children and adults) than people think. .

In a similar story published by .com in 2017, a 4-year-old boy in Canada landed in the emergency room after choking and screaming in pain at a barbecue, where doctors surgically removed two metal grill brush fibers lodged in the minor's esophagus.

An x-ray of 4-year-old Oliver Schenn (not the patient treated by Dr. Martin) shows the metal bristle lodged in his throat.

According to a study published in 2016 in the journal Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, barbecue brushes caused approximately 1,698 emergency room visits between 2002 and 2014, .com previously reported.

When barbecue brush injuries occur, Martin says it's most common to see the bristles lodged in the mouth or throat, but they can end up anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract, including the stomach and intestines.

“I actually saw two kids who had (the wires) in their abdomen, and one of them was pretty sick,” Martin says.

In the intestines, the bristles can cause perforations or holes, allowing the contents to escape into the abdomen. Intestinal perforations are a medical emergency that can cause life-threatening complications like sepsis, he says, or death.

“Even just developing a (throat) abscess like the 4-year-old in our case, if it had developed in the space where his airways and other important blood vessels are located, could be life-threatening, especially if it is not detected,” he adds.

While a bristle lodged in the mouth or throat usually causes pain and discomfort immediately, Martin says, swallowing a metal wire may not cause symptoms for a few days. “It would be important to control abdominal pain or vomiting in general,” says Martin.

Anyone can be injured by wire grill brushes, as long as they eat food from a grill that has been cleaned by one, Martin says. That's why she never uses a metal bristle brush to clean her own grill at home.

“If you have one of these metal wire grate brushes, I would recommend getting rid of it and using one of the safer options,” says Martin. Instead, he recommends brushes, sponges, scrapers, stones, or wire-free grill wipes to combat charred dirt and grease. “Absolutely inspect your grill before using it and make sure there is nothing that could be concerning.”

Getting rid of the wire grill brush is “really just a small change we can make to avoid this risk completely,” he adds.

If you want to read the note in its original version in English, see .