What is it about campfires that make them so hypnotic and fun? Add a family-sized bag of marshmallows and four pounds of hot dogs and campfires become an essential part of any successful camping trip. While it may be a welcoming center of attention, a campfire needs to have its space to keep those enjoying it from getting hurt.
Campfire accidents send thousands of people to emergency rooms each year, with young children being the most common patient. According to Annette Matherly, RN, community outreach coordinator for the University of Utah Health Burn Center, injury often occurs when the family is setting up camp and children are left unattended. "Children are attracted to the fire pit, which is likely still hot from the previous campers," she says. But beware—fire pit embers can remain hot 12 to 14 hours after the fire has been put out.
Burn Prevention Tips
- Wear tight-fitting clothing around open flames
Wearing snug-fitting clothing is a good habit for cooking over stoves and campfires. Fabrics like cotton blends, rayon, and acrylic ignite easily and burn rapidly. Even clothing treated to be non-flammable can, after multiple washes, become easily flammable. The Emergency Medical Services Authority suggests wearing clothing that doesn't require wearers to pull the garment over one's head. "If a garment can be quickly removed when it catches fire, an injury will be far less severe or avoided altogether," they say.
- Have a water source available
Storing water close to the fire pit should be standard practice for every camping activity because it makes it easy to drown flames and cool coals whenever you leave the campsite or going to bed. It can quickly douse flames should an accident occur.
- Know the rules for an emergency
The lessons young people learn in school applies to recreation as well. Be sure children and adults know the "Stop, Drop, and Roll" method for stamping out flames. But remember, if gasoline or another flame accelerant is involved, it's vital to smother the flames with a blanket.
- Enforce a "circle of safety"
Keeping a safe distance will ensure loved ones keep away from injury. A campfire has at least a three-foot safety perimeter. An adult should always be in charge of enforcing a safety zone.
When an injury occurs
When an injury occurs, remember the four C's as important first-aid steps:
- Cool the affected area with cool water. Not ice cubes or ice water.
- Clean the area of dirt, grass, soot.
- Cover the burned area with a clean dressing or towel.
- Call for help. Most burn centers provide 24-hour care.
This summer, it's fun to pack up the family and take the time to see the amazing outdoor beauty this state has to offer, but amid all of the exciting destinations, let's leave the visits to the emergency room behind.