Sunshine and trees. Sunburns and skinned knees.
Minor injuries and illnesses are as much a part of summer camp as S’mores.
But with a little planning, you can help your kids avoid bug bites and other summer camp bugaboos like poison ivy rashes and dehydration.
Here are six ways to prepare your kids for a day or sleepaway camp.
- Manage medications. Review the camp’s medication protocols and complete all authorizations or forms prior to drop off. Talk to camp directors and counselors about your child’s medication needs. At drop off, confirm counselors have all prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, inhalers or EpiPens.
- Hydration is critical. Kids should drink five to eight cups of water per day, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Drop them off with a full tank by giving them a big glass of water or milk with breakfast. Send them to camp with a full water bottle. Make sure camp leaders keep extra water handy for refills.
- Load ‘em up with sunscreen. Fair-skinned children can sunburn in as little as 10 minutes, and children with darker skin can burn in 30–60 minutes. Getting more than five sunburns over a lifetime doubles a person’s risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. This makes sun protection incredibly important, so pack your child’s backpack with UVA/UVB sunscreen SPF 30 or higher. Apply a base layer before dropping off, and ask camp leaders to remind your child to reapply it every two hours and after swimming, sweating or showering. A rash guard shirt, shorts or body suit with UPF is another great way to protect against sunburns. If your child comes home with a sunburn, soothe it with methods recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA).
- Apply an aloe vera or soy moisturizer or use an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
- Avoid “-caine” products, such as benzocaine.
- Allow blisters to heal without popping them.
- Give your child more water, a cool bath or shower, and acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce swelling, redness and discomfort.
- Repel bugs with DEET and proper clothing. 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. Children under 10 years old should not apply insect repellant on their own. DEET is not approved for infants under two months. Show older kids how to apply it over sunscreen, avoiding their eyes and mouth. Have them carefully spray DEET onto their hands first and rub it onto their exposed skin. Remember to apply in a well-ventilated area, and that a little goes a long way. DEET 10% works well for about two hours and DEET 20-30% will last about five hours. Only apply once a day.
- Campers should wear light-colored, lightweight long sleeves and pants to avoid bites. Ensure they conduct tick checks after hiking or playing in long grass. Treat insect bites at home with acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain, hydrocortisone cream or an over-the-counter oral antihistamine to alleviate itching, and ice to reduce swelling.
- Teach plant safety. Engage kids by showing them images of poison ivy, stinging nettle, giant hogweed and other plants that should not be touched. Gamify it by creating flash cards and seeing how many they can get right. Tell them to inform a counselor immediately if they think they touched or ingested a poisonous plant. According to the AADA, children should go to an emergency room immediately if they develop:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- A rash around one or both eyes, the mouth, or the genitals, or a rash on most of their body
- Facial swelling
- Itching that gets worse or makes it impossible to sleep
- A fever
- If your child comes home with a mild rash, treat it with oral antihistamines—not creams, as they can worsen the rash and itching. Also try:
- Washing the skin and clothing
- Letting blisters heal without popping them
- Taking short, lukewarm baths
- Applying calamine lotion or a hydrocortisone cream and a cool compress
- 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 who is 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 have germs that can cause serious infections.
Remember, Legacy-GoHealth is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday to treat your family’s non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses. Have a safe summer!
Alexis Smithers is the Advanced Practice Provider Lead and a Nurse Practitioner at Legacy-GoHealth Urgent Care.