First aid

05 July 2005

Safety when camping with kids

A camping trip can be even more of an adventure than you bargained for if you're taking children along. Keeping in mind a few important precautions can prevent potential disaster.

Heading for the great outdoors can be even more of an adventure than you bargained for if you're taking children along, but just keeping in mind a few important precautions can prevent potential disaster.

One of the first, and biggest mistakes parents make when taking children camping is allowing kids to go off exploring on their own.

According to Barbara Maynes, a national forest spokesperson, that may be fine in the suburbs, but not in the wilderness.

Stay alert, stay alive
"You need to be aware of your surroundings all the time. Kids will wander out into the woods because parents are used to letting their children do that perhaps in the backyard or areas where they live, but in a park setting, especially in the wilderness, there can be a wide variety of hazards."

"Things like ground nestings of bees are common and kids love to climb on logs and go behind rocks and things. Those are precisely the areas that are prone to bee activity."

And you can add plant life to the potential hazards, adds Dr Lloyd Van Winkle, an associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Centre.

Plants bite too
"Poison plants can be huge problems. Your local parks people can usually give you pictures of the variety that's in your region and you can learn to avoid it."

"A good preventative measure, however, is to simply carry a bar of soap with you. If you do happen to fall into a patch, you can wash the exposed area of the skin and if it's within 10 minutes of the exposure, you can prevent the eruption in most cases."

Another potentially serious mistake parents make is viewing an encounter with seemingly non-aggressive wildlife, such as deer or ground animals.

A bite can be bigger than the bark
"It's a common misconception that deer are safe, but you never want to let a child approach a deer, or any kind of wild animal, for that matter," says Maynes.

"Wild animals can and do carry diseases that can be transmitted. There are cases of people being bitten by small animals such as squirrels and serious disease can indeed be transmitted that way."

Dr Van Winkle adds that it's especially hazardous to approach a baby animal.

"A baby animal can appear to be a benign, gentle creature, but if you approach it and the mother sees you do that, you'll find out how they are defending their offspring."

Maynes says the most important thing to consider when hiking in such areas with kids is not to take your eyes off of them.

Keep them close
"Make sure the children are close by. For example, on a day hike, don't let children run ahead. The safest way to hike in cougar country is to stay in groups."

"This doesn't mean parents can't let their kids explore and have fun. It's just that in a natural area you need to keep in mind that there are going to be hazards and risks that are different than those you'd likely find at home."


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