Who hasn’t enjoyed a yummy s’more this summer or in past summers? Whether around your backyard fire pit or on a camping trip, s’mores are almost a summer rite of passage. But when making those gooey, yummy treats or doing anything else that involves fire, be sure to take safety precautions and maintain a circle of safety.
A circle of safety is a good rule anytime you are working with fire or something hot (like a grill or oven). Maintain a three-foot circle around the campfire or hot object to help prevent accidents. With young children, this circle of safety needs to be created with actual physical barriers like a safety fence or gate. With older children, you can draw a circle with sidewalk chalk, or if you’re on the beach on in the campground, use a stick to draw a circle in the sand or dirt. No one, except for the adult managing the fire, should step within the circle of safety.
Kids are curious, so just creating the circle of safety is not enough. Whenever you have an active fire, closely supervise all children. This means actively watching them, not just being near them while you are engrossed in conversation with friends or playing on your phone.
If you plan to roast marshmallows, do not allow young children to do so on their own. Hold their stick with them. Be sure to use sticks that are long enough so you do not have to get too close to the fire. Be careful to not touch the stick after it’s been near the fire as it will be hot enough to burn you or a child.
When you’re done with your fire, don’t just walk away and let it burn out. You need to fully extinguish the fire. Pour water on the fire, stir it up and then pour more water on top. Do that until the fire is completely extinguished and there’s no more steam or heat coming from the fire. Failure to do this results in many burn injuries each year as the coals from fires can stay hot for a day or so. If you’re on the beach, do not bury your fire with sand. Follow the same routine of pouring on water and stirring. If you’re dealing with hot charcoal briquettes, either use a receptacle provided for their disposal at the park, or again, follow the same water and stir routine.
Another cause of many summer burn injuries is fireworks. Leave the fireworks displays to the professionals. Don’t be fooled into thinking sparklers are safe. The tip of a sparkler burns at 1800 degrees — that’s more than eight times hotter than boiling water!
If someone does get burned, first make sure to put out the fire if the person’s hair or clothing is on fire. That’s where stop, drop and roll comes into play. Then you want to stop the burning process. For small burns, run cool water over the burn for five to 10 minutes. Do not use ice or ice packs as extreme cold can further the injury. Remove all jewelry, watches, rings and clothing around the burned area as soon as possible. For larger burns, call 911 for help.
Karla Klas, BSN, RN, CCRP, is Managing Director of Injury Prevention and Community Outreach for the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center. Karla manages the Trauma Burn Center’s family-centered prevention programs which focus on mitigating high-risk behaviors to reduce the occurrence of tragic burn and trauma injuries. She coordinates the nationally acclaimed Straight Talk youth firesetting prevention and intervention program and its educational videos “In An Instant” and “Sean’s Story.”
University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine. In December 2011, the hospital opened our new 12-story, state-of-the-art facility offering cutting-edge specialty services for newborns, children and women.