Six Ways to Prepare Your Child for Summer Camp Season

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, according to experts from Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Dermatology Association, and the American Camp Association.
“You can’t prevent every bump and bruise, but you can send your kids out the door with an
understanding of safety and basic supplies to keep them comfortable in hot, buggy conditions,” says
Michael Green, M.D., Associate Medical Director, Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care.
Here are six ways to prepare your kids for a day or sleepaway camp.
1. Manage medications. Review the camp’s medication protocols and complete all authorizations
or forms prior to drop off. To be accredited by the American Camp Association, a summer camp
must gather health history information for each camper and have a healthcare center. Some
camps also require a physical health exam for campers. “I know it’s a lot of paperwork, but it’s
important to be thorough when you fill out those forms,” says Dr. Green. “No one knows what
your child needs better than you do.” 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.
2. 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. “Kids tend to forget to drink water when they’re
having fun, but dehydration can be dangerous. Kids should always have easy access to water,
and camp staff should remind them to drink it,” says Dr. Green
3. Load ‘em up with sunscreen. 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), such as:
 Apply an aloe vera or soy moisturizer or 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.

4. Pack insect repellent with DEET. 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, says Dr. Green.
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.
5. 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
 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.
6. 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.

Leave a Reply