Campfires and grills fuel some of summer’s fondest memories.
S’mores. Ghost stories. Sizzling burgers and steaks.
While barbecues can be safely held with children of all ages, these events can also be a source of serious injury.
As families shift into vacation mode, it’s easy to take their eyes off the kids, said Erica Michiels, MD, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine at Spectrum Health.
Severe burns happen in a flash.
When grilling, take all of the same safety precautions as when cooking with a stove top, Dr Michiels said.
“Teach the kids that the grill is hot and to stay away,” she said. “And don’t let older kids run a grill unless you are there to supervise.”
The most common type of grilling injury? Burned fingertips.
Campfires are more of a problem, she said.
“Often, adults like to drink around campfires, so supervision is not ideal,” she said.
Campfire hazards to watch out for:
“Children can get too close to a fire, lose their footing and fall into it,” said Dr Michiels. And while it can happen to adults too, injuries are much more devastating for children.
“The body cannot tolerate big burns,” she said. “So a burn of the same size on an adult and a toddler is much more dangerous for the child because it represents a larger percentage of the skin surface. “
Children, especially those aged 4 and under, have thinner skin, which puts them at a higher risk of fatal burns.
If anyone intends to use an accelerator like lighter fluid on the fire, make sure a responsible adult does it. Children should stay away from fire.
Often people carelessly throw the brush into the fire. The problem is, you don’t always know what plants are in there.
“The oils in poison ivy vaporize into smoke and cause some of the worst cases, including inside the lungs and mouth,” Dr. Michiels said.
Drinking and drugs
Bonfires on the beach have been a rite of passage for teenagers for generations. Unfortunately, they are also a common place for teens to drink and use drugs, resulting in dangerous behaviors. This can lead to falls, burns, cuts from discarded bottles.
If you haven’t spoken to your kids to explicitly tell them why you don’t want them to experiment with drugs or alcohol, it’s time to have a conversation before the fire.
In fact, if you don’t tell your teens about it, the experts say you might be sending the message that you don’t think it matters. Keep the conversation low-key, experts at Administration of Addiction and Mental Health Services.
Schedule lots of short chats and let your kids know that they can text you anytime for a ride if they don’t feel safe.
Next day burns
“Each year we will see a few instances where children ran over the extinguished campfire the next morning, not realizing it was still hot,” Dr Michiels said. “It’s an injury that goes unnoticed but is more common than people think.”
Parents and adults should cool off first aid instructions for burns.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an immediate visit to a pediatrician or emergency room for any swollen, blistering burn that covers an area larger than the size of your child’s hand. A burn to the hand, foot, face, genitals or joint is considered a serious injury that should be looked at by a professional.
Run cold water for five minutes on minor burns, including a first degree burn where the skin turns red but not blistering, and on minor second degree burns, which are very painful and prone to blistering. Then bandage the wound so that it does not stick to the burn site.
Do not apply ointment unless instructed to do so by a healthcare practitioner. Do not use home remedies such as butter or fat, as they can cause serious infections.