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Burns at the grill? Sunburn? – How to protect yourself.

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The sun is shining, the grill is burning, it feels like vacation, and it couldn't be more perfect. If it weren't for the next sunburn, a burn at the grill due to a moment of inattention, or a biting insect – attracted by the smell of fine food. Check our tips to protect yourself or at least provide quick relief. 

Drink plenty of fluids (at least 2 liters per day), don't wave your arms about when insects appear, and cool burns immediately. We are all familiar with these rules. But we don't always follow them. So a quick reminder can't do any harm. 

Burns and insect bites

Accidents involving severe burns are fortunately rare. The most common cause is when liquid fuel is poured into an open fire

Alfred Egg, AXA

Protection against burns when grilling


Regardless of whether it's meat, fish or vegetarian, the grill (e.g. gas grill) can reach a temperature of 800 degrees. Burns then happen quickly and are that bit more painful at high ambient temperatures. Therefore:

  • Wear grilling gloves. Not so attractive, but your fingers will thank you for it.  
  • Have cold water to hand. You should always keep a bucket of cold water next to the grill. This will cool any burns immediately in case of emergency. 
  • Only grill in the open air. If you grill in closed rooms, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, the grill must be on level ground and at least one meter away from flammable materials.
  • Always check a gas grill. Are the pipes leaky? Is the valve tight? Turn off the gas supply immediately if you smell gas. Never place the gas cylinder under the burner and don't bend over the grill when you light it. Keep at least 30cm distance.
  • Be careful with fire accelerants/lighter fluids. Don't use methylated spirit or gasoline or other fire accelerants and never top up with lighter fluids. This can result in small explosions or glowing particles flying around.  
  • After grilling. Pour water over warm coals or the dying embers. Allow residue to cool for at least 48 hours in the open air, preferably in a fireproof container. Do not dispose of residue in the organic waste bin. 

Treat burns with household remedies

  • Cool, cool, cool! Run cold water over the burn immediately for about 20 minutes. 
  • Treat the wound. Carefully loosen any clothing from the affected area of the body, don't rip it off. Apply a healing ointment that allows the skin to breathe and cover the wound with a sterile dressing. 

Switzerland leads Europe in the prevalence of skin cancer! - Don't sunbathe between 11am and 3pm, and never without sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.

Dr. Beat Gründler, AXA

Protection against sunburn, sunstroke and skin cancer

To enjoy the sun worry-free and at the same time prevent skin cancer, pay attention to the following:

  • Sunscreen with a high protection factor. Always use sunscreen with a protection factor of 50. This protects the skin from the harmful UVA and UVB rays. – By the way: Did you know that sunscreen is the best anti-aging agent?  
  • The right clothing. Wear airy light clothing made of linen or cotton and a hat with a visor and neck protection.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Cool drinks, but not ice-cold. Otherwise the body has to regulate the high temperature difference and you sweat even more. 
  • Cool off regularly. Douse your wrists or feet with cold water from time to time.
  • Stay in the shade. Don't just lie in the sun. Take regular breaks from the sun and stay in complete shade between 11am and 3pm.

Approximately 2,700 people develop skin cancer in Switzerland each year. One of the reasons is excessive visits to the solarium. – Stay away for the sake of your skin.

Treat sunburn with household remedies

Cool, cool, cool! Preferably with aloe vera. This miracle cure doesn't just cool, it also provides lots of moisture and is anti-inflammatory.

Drink plenty of fluids. Cool drinks, but not ice-cold. Sunburn heats up the body even more. It attempts to regulate this by sweating, which leads to additional loss of fluid. 

Avoid sunbathing. Protect your skin from further sun radiation and stay in the shade.   

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    Dr. Beat Gründler

    Specialist physician FMH (Swiss Medical Association) for internal medicine, Master's in insurance medicine, University of Basel, Medical Services Manager, AXA

Symptoms of sunstroke

Sunstroke is a nasty trick of the sun. We usually only notice it a few hours later, when it hits us with full force. These are the symptoms:

  • A bright red head and neck pain. Interestingly, the head feels very hot and the rest of the body feels normal to cool.
  • Headache and dizziness. If it's a really bad dose, it's accompanied by severe nausea and vomiting.

Treat sunstroke with household remedies

  • Cool off immediately. Go to a cool room and lie down flat, with a wet compress on your head. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Even if you are not thirsty. You need plenty of fluid. Drink cool fluids slowly and in small sips, but not salty water, broth or freezing cold drinks. 

Sunstroke or heat stroke? High fever? Unconsciousness? This can put all organs at acute risk. Call a physician immediately.

Dr. Beat Gründler, AXA

Protection against insect bites

We all look forward to the arrival of summer, but we could do without the irritation of insect bites. Whereas the itching caused by mosquito bites drives us crazy, the pain from bee or wasp stings is severe. Therefore:

  • Wear closed shoes. Never go barefoot or with open shoes over meadows.
  • Eat indoors. The smell of food and drink attracts wasps in particular. 
  • Wear light-colored clothing. Insects are attracted by dark clothing. 
  • Stay calm. Don't make hectic movements as this provokes insects.
  • Use mosquito repellent. Spray yourself with mosquito repellent in the morning and in the evening.  
  • Install a mosquito net. Install a mosquito net over the windows or the bed.

Treat insect bites with household remedies

  • Remove the stinger. If the stinger is still in your skin, carefully remove it so that no more poison enters the body.
  • Cool off. Place cold envelopes or cool packs on the sting. 
  • Rub in cream. Use a cooling gel or a cream that contains cortisone. This alleviates the itching especially after mosquito bites.
  • Take antihistamine. If you are allergic to bee or wasp stings,  always keep your medication ready to hand. 

Generally speaking: When should I see a physician?

In most cases, healing takes place with no consequences. But, unfortunately, not always. Go to the physician in the following cases:

You're not healing correctly or it's getting worse instead of better, home remedies no longer help, or you just feel bad. 

What's an accident, what's an illness?

If you burn yourself when grilling, that is clearly an accident. But it's different for sunburn, sunstroke and heat stroke. From the legal point of view, these are illnesses. Unless you are, for example, a construction worker or a lifeguard. In those cases, sunburn could be an occupational disease and any costs for physicians and medication, including, where appropriate, daily benefits in case of incapacity for work, are covered by accident insurance. 

A mosquito bite is par for the course in summer. It's harmless, heals quickly, and is clearly defined as an illness. On the other hand, a bee or wasp sting, for example, is deemed to be an accident. Especially if the sting leads to an infection or poisoning, or triggers an allergic reaction. 

 

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    Alfred Egg

    Chief Claims Officer AXA Switzerland, Committee President for Property & Casualty Insurance (Swiss Insurance Association)

Every year approximately 14,000 tonnes of sunscreen end up in the ocean! And certain sun filters are partly responsible for marine pollution and the destruction of the coral reefs. Therefore, when you buy sunscreen, check the ingredients and make sure they don't include Octinoxat or oxybenzone.

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