We all love getting out and camping, but sometimes the great outdoors can come and bite us when we aren’t looking (both figuratively and literally). So, how can we keep our kiddies safe over the Summer months, whilst still making sure they have a great time? Education is the key I believe, and this can start as soon as they are able to walk.
What we touch and what we steer clear from
Firstly, teach your children what is not safe to touch or play with when camping. And by this I mean spiders, snakes, and other undesirables. I find it a great idea to have a small booklet (or colour photocopies that you have found from the web) aimed at children, with colour pictures of animals, reptiles and/or insects that can have a nasty bite or sting. You can give this to them on the drive there, opening a wonderful discussion on the dangers of Australian wildlife, and what to do if you see something scary.
Snakes are not to be approached under any circumstances (and trust me, I have seen enough “snake experts” in the bush to be quite frightened for young children). Teach your children to stop what they are doing, be very quiet, not to move, and wait for the snake to move away. If it seems like the snake is there for the long haul, don’t try to prod it with a stick (no matter what the “snake experts” think). Walk slowly backward, not making any great leaps or crazy screams, until safety is reached. Then tell an adult and if possible, a Ranger or other Foresty worker.
Spiders can be scary for a lot of people, and they can be found in many outdoor venues (especially in the bush toilet blocks it seems). Unless it is about to strike you or jump at you (or it’s sitting on the toilet seat), nothing major needs to be done about them. Tell your kids not to touch them, and they will usually leave you alone too. If they are in your camping accommodation however, then an adult should dispose of it immediately. It should never be the child’s responsibility to get rid of a pest, no matter how scared the adults are of it!
If rock pooling at the local beach, there may be hazardous critters hiding in the warm shallow waters. My rule is: never put your fingers where you can’t see them. Whilst Blue Ringed Octopus and cone shells are not all that common, I don’t like to take my chances…..
Get familiar with First Aid
Secondly, know how to apply first aid for bites and stings. I always have a first aid kit available in the caravan, and one in the car too for emergencies. “Stingose” is a favourite of mine, as it can be liberally applied to most areas when needed, and it stops stings almost instantly (plus the kids like the white layer of salt left behind). You should always have a compression bandage in the first aid kit too, just in case.
Spider bites need cold compression (compress the area, making sure to keep blood flow to the extremities), with a cold pack on top if possible. Consider seeing a doctor if warranted. Be prepared to perform CPR if necessary.
Snake bites need emergency evacuation, and a pressure immobilisation bandage should be applied as soon as possible.
Marine bites (Blue Ringed Octopus, Cone shells and sea snake bites) should be treated with pressure immobilisation bandages, and emergency services should be called immediately.
Thirdly, learn how to perform CPR. This is an invaluable tool that everyone should know how to perform.
Do something if needed. Having a go at helping someone in need is important, whether or not you know exactly what you are doing. It may just save someone’s life. And never second guess your gut instinct to call for help.
This information is a guide only. Proper training is recommended for all persons thinking about camping in the great outdoors, and can be accessed through St John Ambulance, Surf Lifesaving, and other experts.
Be water wise
I know we have all heard the stories of kids who have drowned whilst camping with the family, and we all think it won’t happen to us. It can happen, and it does. Think very carefully about your campsite. Can the kids access local waterways (streams, rivers, lakes, the ocean)? Are they VERY competent swimmers? Have they had swimming lessons? Will they be able to yell for help if needed?
As a member of Surf Lifesaving Australia, I thoroughly recommend swimming between the flags if possible, and swimming at a registered Patrolled beach. “Beach Safe” is a free App which has a list of all Patrolled beaches in the country, and their patrol times. It also rates each beach for its danger factors, and allows you to make an informed decision on what beach is right for your family. Some rivers also have lifesaving patrols in major towns and cities. Do your homework, and the water will be a lot of fun this season!
Hot, hot, hot!
The other main issue I have seen in the bush is burns from campfires and camp stoves. Apart from completing a first aid course, which covers these incidences, what you basically need to know is this: burns are hot. They need to be cooled down. Ice is NOT recommended, as it can stick to the burn and cause even more damage. Run the affected area under cool water for 20 minutes, but be aware of hypothermia in very cold conditions. If the burn is larger than a 50c piece, or on a small child, I’d call 000 (or take them to an emergency room) for help.
Take care out in the bush this year, and the camping season will be one to remember forever, for all the right reasons! Happy camping!