Fire pits and ‘staycations’ keep kids’ burns on the rise

Long summer nights, fireflies, s’mores and outdoor fire pits. Who doesn’t enjoy these memorable signs of summer? Unfortunately, these joys of summer bring many potential accidents.

Campfires are the leading cause of children’s camping injuries, with burns accounting for 74 percent of injuries. Half of the children admitted to hospitals with burns are younger than 4.

As more families are having ‘staycations’ – spending their time off at home instead of going away on vacation – I’ve seen a rise in the number of fire pit-related burns. Kids are showing up at the emergency room and burn clinic in alarming numbers after falling into fire pits, touching metal lids of fire pits, inhaling smoke and flames, and burning feet and toes stepping on embers.

Too often teens and adults do not use their best judgment when building outdoor fires. Fires generaly are too big for the fire pit, and many are started with lighter fluid, which can flash back, burning those who are too close to the flames.

Families also are forgetting to follow Smoky the Bear’s rules on putting out fires with water. I’ve seen several kids who have fallen into fire pits the morning after a fire and ended up in the hospital. Kids are curious. They may dig in the ashes without realizing that the embers underneath may still be hot from the night before.

These accidents are serious, but can be prevented by following these simple safely rules:

  • Teach your kids the dangers of the fire pit before going outside.
  • Never leave the fire unattended, or kids alone by a fire, not even for a minute.
  • Keep your kids at least two feet from the fire pit.
  • Never put your back to a fire pit.
  • Keep the lid on the fire pit.
  • Never build the fire above the fire pit rim.
  • Never use lighter fluid to start a fire pit and keep it away from open flames.
  • Keep water, a shovel and a fire extinguisher nearby.
  • Always put the fire out with water at the end of the night.
  • Because the embers can blow and cause fires, keep the pit away from homes and garages.

My advice: Don’t let your summer fun end in the pits, keep kids safe around open flames.

– Margaret Thew, MSN, CFNP, Trauma Program, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

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