Are You Summer Camp Ready? Help Your Camper Live Their Best Life


School’s out and summer camp is in. Time for campfire stories, long hikes and new friends. Camp is filled with these time-honored traditions and so many others that support our kids’ social, physical and mental well-being.

Despite camp’s well-documented benefits, injuries and illnesses do happen. As a lead pediatrician at Northwell Health-GoHealth, I have seen my fair share.

You can send your young campers this summer ready for a fun and safe experience with these tips:

Manage medications prior to drop off. Review the camp’s medication protocols and complete all authorizations or forms prior to drop off. Start your camp clearance forms early and ensure all medications and allergies are clearly documented. Talk to camp directors and counselors about your child’s allergies and medication needs. At drop off, confirm counselors have all prescriptions, over-the- counter medications, inhalers or EpiPens.

Load ‘em up with sunscreen. Children can sunburn in as little as 10 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. Double-check backpacks to ensure campers have
UVA/UVB sunscreen SPF 30 or higher and preferable sunscreen that is zinc oxide based. Apply a base layer before drop off, and work with camp leaders to ensure they reapply 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 sunburn.

If your child comes home with a sunburn, soothe it with methods recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), such as:
 Apply a moisturizer that contains aloe vera or soy 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 age 10 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 check for ticks 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. Ensure your child knows to tell a counselor 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.
Mild rashes can be treated 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. Remind campers never to enter the water unless a counselor or lifeguard is present. Instill the importance of life jackets. Even the most advanced swimmers must wear a flotation device when fishing, boating or jet skiing. Get your camper swimming lessons before camp begins.

Always remember the ABCs of swimming:
 Adult supervision: Always have adult supervision who is within 10 seconds of reach of any child.
 Barriers: Be sure the pool is surrounded on all four sides by a fence that is at least five feet high to avoid any climbing and has a self-closing gate.
 Clear and clutter-free: Ensure clear and clutter-free areas both inside and outside the pool for unobstructed views and quick reach.
 Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): This is very important to learn in the event of any emergency.

Keep them hydrated. 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 ensuring they drink a big glass of water or milk with breakfast. Double-check that they have a full water bottle in their backpack. Confirm with camp leaders they will have extra water for refills throughout the day. If you have younger kids, send them to camp with a water bottle that has time markers to remind them when to drink water. If your child has a fever, vomiting or flushed appearance, your child may be experiencing heat exhaustion or heatstroke,
and you should see a provider immediately.

Prepare them emotionally. Have conversations with your campers so they are mentally, physically and emotionally ready, especially for kids going to sleepaway camp. Choose camps that align with their interests and let your kids be part of the decision. Have open conversations with your child and ask
them how they are feeling. Discuss the camp activities so your child knows what to expect and gets familiar with the new routine.

Dr. Lynda Gerberg is lead pediatrician for Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care


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