Summer Recreational Activities Put Families at High Risk for Burns

June 30, 2003

As the mercury rises during the summer months, so does the risk of burns associated with the season's recreational activities. Whether at the beach or in the backyard, fire and burn hazards abound during the hottest time of the year.

Outdoor cooking, camping and fireworks are some of the major culprits.  More than half of the 11,000 injuries that occur every year from fireworks and grill fires happen within the first week of July, according to the National Fire Data Center. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that children who are 14 and under account for about 4,700 of these injuries.

According to Christopher Lentz, M.D., director of the Strong Regional Burn Center, most of these injuries are easy to prevent.

"While summer is a time for fun outdoors, it is also a time of high risk for burn-related injuries," Lentz said. "Being aware of potential hazards and following a few safety tips can ensure that everyone has fun and no one is hurt."

Here are some additional tips from Lentz on how to practice summer safety and steer clear of burns:

  • Take precautions starting charcoal grills: Use charcoal starter fuel---never gasoline. Make sure that coals are not warm or hot when starting the grill.  Once the coals are soaked with fluid, allow a minute for the vapors to dissipate before lighting the coals; these vapors easily ignite. 
  • Check grill for leaks before cooking: Prior to using a gas grill, check all connections from the fuel source to the grill for leaks.  After turning the valve of the fuel source on, spray soapy water at the connections and watch for bubbles, which indicate there is a leak.  If there is a leak, shut the valve off, and then tighten the connections, or have a professional check the grill.  
  • Keep fireworks out of children's hands!  In New York State, seemingly harmless fireworks such as sparklers, firecrackers and bottle rockets not only are illegal, but are responsible for more than two thirds of fireworks-related injuries. Sparklers cause the lion share of these injuries. Among children under five, sparklers account for three-quarters of all fireworks-related injuries.  When lit, sparklers can reach dangerously hot temperature levels--1800 °F or more, and may burn even when extinguished.
  • Selecting a spot for a fire: Build the campfire downwind and far away from the tent. When possible, use the designated fire pit. Once a good spot has been selected, clear a 3 foot area free of leaves, dry grass, and pine needles.  Be sure to clear the area around grills and tents.
  • Alcohol and campfires don't mix: The majority of campfire burns are associated with alcohol use, so it is best to avoid drinking when there is a campfire burning.
  • Keep a look-out: Never, under any circumstance, leave a campfire unattended, or children alone to watch the fire.
  • Conduct an equipment check: Check all propane camping appliances for leaks before using them each season, as well as periodically during the season.
  • Leave others a safe campsite: Before leaving the campsite, ensure that the fire is out.  Douse the place of the fire with water, and stir to make sure it stays out.

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Germaine Reinhardt
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