You set an alarm to be at your computer the moment registration opened. You logged on, feverishly typed in your children’s information, and breathed a sigh of relief. Does this scenario sound familiar? For the first time in two years, you’re sending your kids off to camp again. 

Summer camp is not only an excellent childcare option while school is out, it also can improve kids’ physical and mental health. When kids explore the outdoors, they gain autonomy and build resilience. Rigorous activity can reduce stress and anxiety, support sleep habits and help maintain a healthy weight, among many other health benefits. Getting kids into the great outdoors can even produce a physiological relaxation effect in kids, many of whom have endured unprecedented stressors over the last two years. Spending concentrated time with peers in nature can accelerate socialization, which is more important than ever as many kids lost years of building those crucial skills. 

While camp provides many proven benefits to kids, camps can also come with a standard set of concerns, including hydration, sunburn, and bug bites. As a pediatric nurse practitioner at Legacy-GoHealth Pediatric Urgent Care in Cedar Hills, I’ve treated minor injuries and illnesses that are common among young campers. Whether they’re just gone for the day or headed for an overnight experience, taking a few precautions before dropping off your kids at camp can help ensure kids leave ready to enjoy all the benefits camp has to offer. Here are my tips:  

  1. Confirm COVID-19 safety protocols. Talk to camp organizers to ensure their practices adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. Factors to consider include: Are children outdoors most of the time? Will children be separated into smaller groups? Are counselors required to be vaccinated? These are the crucial questions I recommend asking to keep your young campers and family safe as they begin camp.
  • Pack all medications. Whether your child takes a prescription medication every day or over-the-counter meds only as needed, they must have access to any medication they may need while at camp. Before dropping your child off at camp, review the camp’s website and any other materials provided to ensure you understand their medication protocols. Complete and submit all authorizations or forms and ask camp counselors to pack necessary medications such as inhalers or EpiPens on any off-site excursions.
  • Remind them to wear sunscreen. While kids may not like taking a break from the fun to apply sunscreen, it is the best defense against sunburn. Anytime your child goes outside, they should apply a UVA/UVB sunscreen that’s SPF 30 or higher every two hours and after they swim, sweat, or shower. If your child gets a severe sunburn, the camp counselors should remove them from the sun, give them pain relievers, apply a cool, wet compress to the sunburn, and give them extra fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Send some insect repellent with them. Insect repellent can prevent itchy, uncomfortable insect bites. It also helps prevent insect-borne infections like Lyme disease and the West Nile and Zika viruses. Look for insect repellent with DEET and teach your children to carefully apply it over sunscreen by spraying onto their hands first and rubbing onto their exposed skin and face. In addition to applying insect repellent, children should wear light-colored long sleeves and pants to help avoid bites, and always conduct tick checks after hiking or playing in long grass.
  • Give a crash course on plant safety. While vegetation and wildlife in nature are beautiful, they can also be hazardous. A knowledgeable guide should always supervise children if they are hiking or camping outdoors. Teach young campers how to recognize plants that should not be touched (like poison ivy). If your child touches or ingests a questionable plant, wash the area immediately with soap and water, remove all particles from their mouth and call the poison control center immediately at 1-800-222-1222.
  • Practice water safety. Sign your child up for swimming lessons before they leave for camp. Make sure they know to never enter the water unless there is a counselor or lifeguard present. Children who are not proficient swimmers should always wear life jackets. So should anyone engaging in water activities like boating, water skiing, or jet skiing. Floatation devices, like water wings, should not be used as a safety device.

Teach children to never drink from natural water sources like ponds, lakes, or streams since these water sources often contain germs that can cause serious infections.

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Children should drink at least two to eleven cups of water per day depending on their age and wear light-colored clothing when outdoors this summer. Remind them to bring their water bottle when leaving camp to hike or engage in other outdoor activities. If possible, sports and other strenuous activities should occur in the morning or late afternoon instead of the hottest hours of the day.

Accidents do happen. I have served as a nurse at several camps in the past and most of the cases are minor sprain and injuries. With a little comfort and care, kids are back with their friends in no time and having the times of their lives. It’s been a crazy couple of years, but I can’t think of a better way to “return to normal” than camp. 

In the unfortunate event that your child needs a higher level of care for a non-life-threatening illness or injury, please come see us!