It was supposed to be a fun family outing – a summer camping trip with parents, siblings and cousins piling into the car and heading from their Cincinnati-area home to Columbus, Ohio. But what started as a fun-filled family vacation, ended in injury.
‘It all happened in a flash’
After a dinner of hot dogs and s’mores cooked over a campfire, the happy crew played until bedtime, then headed to their tents for the night. But in the increasing darkness, it was difficult to see the metal fire ring encircling the smoldering hot coals. Six-year-old Reagan stumbled and fell into the ring and onto the embers, sustaining second- and third-degree burns on the backs of both legs.
Her father, Ryan, grabbed her and took her straight to the nearest local hospital. “It all happened in a flash,” he recalled later. After initial treatment, the nurse asked where they would like to take Reagan for continuing care. Reagan’s mom, Erin, immediately requested Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati; she had a friend whose daughter had been treated for a coffee scald and knew it was the best destination for pediatric burns. They had an appointment two days later.
Fortunately, Reagan’s injuries were relatively mild and the family only had to make a few visits over a two-week period.
“With four children, we have had bumps, bruises and even stitches, but we never experienced anything like we did with Reagan’s accident,” Erin said. “I never knew how horrible burns were, how even the simple act of cleaning the wound causes excruciating pain. We are so grateful for what Shriners Hospitals did for us.”
Burn Injuries By The Numbers
- 24 percent of all burn injuries occur in children under the age of 15.
- Younger children are more likely to sustain injuries from scald burns that are caused by hot liquids or steam, while older children are more likely to sustain injuries from flame burns that are caused by direct contact with fire
- Every day, over 300 children ages 0 to 19 are treated in emergency rooms for burn-related injuries
- Unintentional fire or burn injuries were the 5th leading cause of injury deaths in the United States in 2015 for children age 1-4, and the 3rd for those age 5-9.
Fire safety, simplified
Accidents can happen to anyone. Reagan is proof. Her dad is a firefighter, and she and the other children were well versed in fire safety rules. While campfires are an all-too-common cause of burn injuries in children, there are many other fire-related risks in the summertime. Fortunately, there are simple precautions you can take to avoid burns.
Teach kids to never play with matches, gasoline, lighter fluid or lighters. Make a habit of placing these items up and away from young children.
Do not leave children unattended near grills, campfires, fire pits or bonfires. Always have a bucket of water or fire extinguisher nearby whenever there is a burning fire.
While home fireworks can seem fun, for safety’s sake, it’s best not to use them.
More Safety Tips
IN AND NEAR WATER
- Teach children to never swim alone or go near water without an adult present.
- Give children your undivided attention when they are swimming or are near any body of water.
- Always jump in feet-first to check the depth before diving into any body of water.
- Never dive in the shallow end of a pool or into above-ground pools.
- Always have your children wear a Coast Guard approved, properly-fitted life jacket while on a boat, around an open body of water or when participating in water sports.
AT PARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS
- Take your children to playgrounds with shock-absorbing surfaces under the equipment.
- Teach kids to go down the slide feet-first, one child at a time.
- Remind children to swing sitting down. Encourage them to wait until the swing stops before getting off.
- Make sure kids always wear their helmets when riding their bikes or scooters.
- Make sure kids wear shoes to protect feet from cuts, scrapes and splinters, and sunscreen to protect from sunburns and harmful ultra-violet rays.
Leave fireworks to the pros
Colleen M. Ryan, M.D., of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston, has important advice about why we should leave fireworks to the pros:
Summertime conjures up memories of backyard barbecues, trips to the beach and watching fireworks. But for dozens of families, these occasions are a reminder of something else entirely: panicked 911 calls, tearful trips to the hospital, and long, painful recoveries from burns sustained by mishandling amateur fireworks. The injuries caused by these products can leave physical and mental scars requiring years of treatment.
At the Shriners Hospitals for Children locations that specialize in burn injuries, we treat children with burns ranging from small injuries that can be treated on an outpatient basis to catastrophic, life-threatening injuries. The pace often picks up during the summer, especially around the Fourth of July, when kids are around more fire hazards, including fireworks.
In Massachusetts, for example, the Office of the State Fire Marshal reports that 38% of fireworks-related burn injuries reported by hospitals from 2010 to 2019 were to children under age 18. Almost 24% involved children under age 10. These statistics are reflected around the country.
There are no “safe” fireworks. Most people do not realize that sparklers can burn at 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The extreme temperature of even this simple firework can lead to direct, deep-boring contact burns when touched or stepped on, extensive burns when clothing or hair ignites, and eye injuries when little hot flecks fly off the tip into the unprotected eye. As parents, we go to great lengths to protect our children from dangers with everyday things like car seats and bicycle helmets. Fireworks safety should be a basic component of child-safety parenting practices.
Our goal at Shriners Hospitals for Children is always to keep kids safe. Our children look to us to be the example. Let’s lead by example this summer and leave the fireworks to the professionals.