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Beaches, Babies, and Burns

When we think of burns at the beach, we generally associate them with the sun. However, Teri Coha, APN, Advanced Practice Nurse in the Division of Pediatric Surgery at Lurie Children’s, has been treating children every summer for severe burns on the bottoms of their feet due to hot coals.

Many beach-goers hosting barbeques and bonfires do not properly dispose of the coal used for their fires. They try to extinguish the hot coals by burying them under the sand. However, burying the coals locks in their heat and allows for smoldering to occur beneath the sand longer than if left exposed. “Children playing barefoot at the beach cannot see the coals buried beneath,” says Coha. “And the residual can cause significant burns.”

The hot coals even pose a risk to those wearing shoes. Kate Chapman, APN, Division of Pediatric Surgery, has treated a patient who suffered severe burns  while wearing flip flops – the hot coal got stuck in between his foot and sandal causing a severe burn.

As Coha and Walsh continue to treat children for such burns they hope to raise awareness about this hidden danger.

What can adults do to keep kids safe on the beach this summer?

  • Before disposing of hot coals thoroughly douse them with water.
  • Feel above coals to make sure there is no active heat left.
  • If available use designated “hot coal cans” for disposal.
  • Be aware of the potential for hot coals under the sand especially in popular grilling locations like shaded areas near trees.
  • Charcoal and disposable grills tend to be low in height and easily accessible to children. Exercise strong supervision and keep children at a safe distance to prevent injuries.

Taking a few extra minutes to clean up properly will create a safer environment for children to play and enjoy this summer.


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