Paediatric campfire burns – scourge of the holiday season

Ms Grace Morcom1, Dr Edward Gibson1, Ms Linda Quinn1, Dr Amy Jeeves1, Dr Michelle Lodge1, Dr Rebecca Cooksey1, Mr Darren Molony1, Mr Bernard Carney1

1Women’s And Children’s Hospital


The family camping holiday often features a campfire, particularly in the cooler winter months. This activity predictably carries a significant risk of burn injury for children and observance of fire safety is essential. Anecdotally, the unit has noted an increase in campfire related burns around public and school holidays. This study examines the nature and number of campfire burns and the correlation to the holiday season.


Campfire related burn injuries managed by the unit during the period of August 2005 to April 2017 were examined. The unit’s database was utilised for the data and case note review was also undertaken.


240 patients were found to have sustained an injury related to a camp or open fire. Indigenous patients accounted for 11% of patients treated. There was a mix of burn types with contact with ash and coals and flame burns predominating. The hands and feet were the most common areas affected. Whilst year-to-year trends varied, few cases occurred in the fire ban period over the summer and a large portion of cases occurred in the school holiday periods during the year.


Paediatric campfire burns remain a common and significant source of morbidity. Feet and hands are commonly injured and burn wounds are often deep and require surgical intervention. Campfire injuries often occur during public/school holidays and the Indigenous are over represented in those affected. This study may help to better target awareness campaigns in the future.

Grace is a final year medical student at the University of Adelaide who has a keen interest in public health and burns care.

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