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The Perspective
The Perspective

August 4, 2017

This long weekend prevent burns before they happen

Photo of Charis Kelly

Charis Kelly is a Nurse Practitioner in the Burns Program, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

The summer is typically full of outdoor fun with friends and family and time spent roasting marshmallows over a campfire. Although we can be consumed with the excitement of the season, it actually comes with a risk of burns from numerous sources. Most of these burn injuries are preventable but they can happen in the blink of an eye and the consequences can last a lifetime.

We’ve partnered with the Toronto Fire Services to advocate for burn prevention and safety year-round. In the summer, our focus turns to outdoor risks which can include favourite summer pastimes – fireworks and campfires.

Fireworks, if set off improperly or too close to crowds can cause debilitating injuries. We try our best to educate parents and adults that children should never be allowed to set off fireworks. They can be dangerous and have the potential to cause third degree burns.

Campfires can also cause permanent injuries. It is vital people maintain a safe distance when roasting marshmallows and singing campfire songs this summer. Campfires should have a well-defined border that everyone – not just children – should stay behind.

Enforcing rules for appropriate behaviours such as no rough play and no running or games of tag around the campfire are a must. It’s important to remember campfires remain a source of burn injury even when they are not burning as the coals can stay hot for up to 24 hours. We teach "Cool your Coals" and remind adults that children should never use a firepit for play.

We all can fall into a trap of thinking injuries such as these would never happen to my child. But I’ve seen, after 20 years working on the Burns Unit at SickKids, that it does happen all the time. Our numbers have not gone down. These injuries are easily preventable so it is especially important we ensure our children are kept out of these dangerous situations.  

Part of our jobs as health-care providers is to do our best at educating, informing and empowering community members to provide a healthy and safe environment where children can thrive. Once a patient and family come through the doors of SickKids with a burn injury, our focus changes. We strive to provide the best care for our families and ensure patients feel comfortable and secure. We spend countless hours supporting grief-stricken parents to cope with the shocking reality that these burns can happen and we cannot change the past or reverse time.

Please take a moment this weekend to think about every opportunity you might have to make your plans safer for everyone around you. We can make the rest of summer that much brighter if we recognize that burn prevention and education is everyone’s job.