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FOR RELEASE: July 12, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Going Camping? Don't Forget Your Common Sense

No television. No home-cooked meals. No comfortable bed.

For thousands of families, this scenario isn't another night of watching "Survivor." It's a retreat of their own to the great outdoors.

Being close to nature can be a time of exploration and adventure for the entire family, but the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition reminds adults and children that taking some simple safety precautions can mean the difference between a deadly experience and returning home alive.

"When camping, there are many hazards that families may not think about, including the sun, bugs, poisonous plants and campfires," said Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Health Department. "While the intent of a family camping trip may be for mom and dad to relax, and to let the kids have fun, parents need to pay close attention to their children's safety and whereabouts, since tragedy can happen in the blink of an eye."

SAFE KIDS recommends the following guidelines to enjoy a safe, fun, camping vacation:

Safety Outdoors

  • Keep first aid supplies and emergency telephone numbers accessible at all times.
  • Know where the nearest telephone or ranger station is located and, if possible, carry a cell phone.
  • Dress children in several layers of clothing. The inner layer should be a breathable, synthetic material that pulls moisture from the skin.
  • Remember, a child's body temperature changes faster than adults.
  • Check the weather forecast before you leave.
  • Pack essentials, such as flashlights, extra food, water, and rain gear in case of bad weather.
  • Inform others where you are camping and when you'll return.

Hiking Safely

  • Never allow children to hike alone. Teach children to always hike with an adult.
  • Map out your hiking trail ahead of time. Be sure any trail you choose is well marked and do not stray from it.
  • Learn to use a compass.
  • Make sure children are physically capable of the hike in terms of distance, pace and difficulty.
  • Make sure to bring plenty of drinking water. Hiking can cause dehydration.
  • Bring high-energy snacks.
  • Bring extra layers of clothing and rain gear in case the weather suddenly changes.
  • Wear proper hiking boots and clothing that covers as much exposed skin as possible to protect from scrapes, bites and poisonous plants.
  • Keep first aid supplies accessible at all times, even on short hikes.

Water Safety

Children can drown in as little as one inch of water. Drowning usually occurs quickly and silently. If your family's camping trip includes a visit to a lake or other body of water, SAFE KIDS recommends you:

  • Never leave a child unsupervised in and around water.
  • Make sure kids wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs) or life jackets when around oceans, rivers and lakes or during water sports. Air-filled "swimming aids" are not considered safety devices and are not substitutes for PFDs.
  • Teach children water safety habits. Children should not run, push others under water, jump on others, dive or jump into shallow water.
  • Never let a child go in the water before testing the temperature. If the water is too cold; it may affect the child's breathing or cause cramps.
  • Be aware of the nature of the water. An open body of water that looks virtually motionless may have a strong undercurrent.
  • Do not allow children to wade into water without protective footwear. Broken glass or other sharp objects may be present.
  • Do not let your child dive into water unless an adult is present and knows the depth of the water is greater than nine feet.
  • Adults and kids over the age of 13 should know infant and child CPR.
  • Never allow children to swim during lightening storms.

Cooking and Heating

  • Always supervise children near a campfire or portable stove.
  • When making a campfire pit, be sure it is large enough to keep a fire from spreading. Avoid building fires on windy days.
  • Always check the fire danger levels posted at the entrances of wilderness parks and camping areas. Do not build a fire if the park recommends against it.
  • Keep a bucket of water and shovel near the fire at all times.
  • Keep matches and lighters out of children's reach. Never use matches and lighters inside tents.
  • Never burn charcoal or use portable camping heaters, lanterns or stoves inside tents, campers or vehicles.

Preventing Poisonings

  • Teach children to stay away from all plants and wild berries unless you are certain they are safe.
  • Be aware of potential sources of carbon monoxide poisoning. They include commonly used camping equipment such as portable camping heaters, lanterns and vehicles.

Bites and Stings

  • Apply insect repellent to a child's clothing and exposed skin. Some repellents are too strong for small children, so check the label.
  • Avoid using scented products such as perfumes and shampoos that attract insects.
  • Be sure to shake out all clothing before wearing it.
  • Teach children not to disturb or provoke any animals they may encounter. Although an animal may look friendly, sudden actions could frighten the animal and provoke an attack.
  • Never leave a child alone with an animal, even if you believe the animal is harmless.
  • Teach children to watch out for snakes and never to touch or disturb them.
  • Check clothing and exposed skin for ticks and other insects after spending time outdoors.


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