Camping Safety – Burn Risk and First Aid

by PennPaddler

campfireWe all know there is a certain amount of risk involved when we play in the outdoors and for the most part I feel confident that most of the people I enter the woods with are aware of the dangers and risks. Some of the common risks we prepare ourselves for are insect bites, sunburn, cuts, illness, and even encounters with wildlife such as rattlesnakes and bear.

We are prepared for many of these risks because they are common risks that we have actually encountered over years, but what about the dangers we don’t expect like burn related injuries. Two camping situations where burn is a real threat are around the campfire and when camp cooking.  Below are a few suggestions on how to reduce the burn threat while camping.

Campfire – A great campfire is often the highlight of the camping trip and without it evenings at the campsite tend to be a bit dull. But fire can be devastating and it only takes a moment of carelessness to turn a camping trip into a disaster.  

  1. Campfires can get out of control quickly so keep it contained and keep it small. A good bed of coals are safest for cooking and a fire surrounded with rocks is best for throwing heat but also helps to keep the fire contained to a safe burn area.
  2. Build your campfire on level ground away from human traffic areas, clear of rocks, stumps, overhanging limbs, dry grass and leaves. Never use liquid stove fuel as a fire starter because often there ends up a burn victim. Always keep a supply of water nearby in case of fire spread.
  3. Keep your campfire free of foreign objects and materials such as glass and unopened cans. Glass and other objects can result in a violent explosion; I’ve seen it happen and you wouldn’t want something that severe to happen while the entire group is gathered around the fire.

Camp Cooking – Like a great campfire, camp cooking is often the highlight of the camping trip but there are serious dangers present when cooking on open fires and with camping stoves.

  1.  I don’t have to explain the dangers of boiling water and cooking with hot oil but when cooking outdoors we don’t always have the right cooking utensils or the appropriate environment and are taking on higher risk.
    1. When handling hot pots and pans be sure to use the right utensils to reduce the risk of spills and burns.
    2. Establish a cooking zone free from obstacles like branches, stumps, coolers, tent rope and children.   
    3. For added protection wear a full layer of clothing and leather boots rather than shorts, open sandals or Crocs.
  2. Liquid fuel camp stoves are capable of putting out a very hot flame that when working properly is a very safe and efficient cooking apparatus. But I’ve seen camp stove malfunctions that nearly ended in disaster if not for some quick thinking by the cook. Always keep camp stoves well maintained and know how to use them properly. And always use your stove in a perimeter away from tents, shelters and other flammables.

firstaidburn2Burn Types

The first-degree burn is the most common and least serious burn that results from sunburn or contact with hot cooking utensils, food or water and hot lanterns.  The first-degree burn usually involves minor pain at the site of the injury and can be treated as a minor burn unless it involves substantial portions of the face and body. The skin at the burn area is usually red, with minor swelling and slight pain, but the outer layer of skin hasn’t been burned through.

The second-degree burn is when the first layer of skin has been burned through and the second layer of skin is also burned and can occur when contact with boiling water, hot food or oil, lanterns, flares, flame or fire. Blisters will develop and the skin will develop a severe red appearance. Second-degree burns produce severe pain and swelling.

The third-degree burn is the most serious burns that involve all layers of the skin and cause permanent muscle and tissue damage. Areas may be charred black or appear dry and white. For these types of burns seek immediate emergency assistance.

Burn Treatment

First-degree burn treatment –  Hold the burned area under clean cold water or place a clean cold compress on the burn for several minutes. Then lightly dry the area and cover it loosely with a sterile gauze bandage. Do not apply ice, sprays or ointments to the burn; however the exception is that sprays may be used in cases of light sunburn.

Second-degree burn treatment – If the second-degree burn is small treat it the same as the first-degree burn but if the burned area is larger than a few inches in diameter or if the burn is present on the face, hands or major portions of the body then treat it as a major burn and get medical emergency assistance.

Third-degree burn treatment – Don’t remove burnt clothing but make sure the victim is no longer in contact with smoldering clothing and materials. Don’t apply cold water cold water because doing so could cause shock. Cover the area of the burn with a cool, moist, sterile bandage or clean moist towels and elevate the burn area if possible. Seek immediate emergency assistance.

A good first aid kit is a sensible thing to have when playing in the outdoors but it’s often one of the most overlooked items on the gear list. Learn more about first aid kits.

Moshannon Falls: Camping Safety – Burn Risk and First Aid

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