Keep your kids safe at summer camp

ThinkstockPhotos-91703676.jpgSummer camp is an excellent opportunity for kids to explore the great outdoors, but if they’re not careful, they can stumble upon things that aren’t so much fun.

The scout motto–be prepared–is great advice. So if you want your kids to avoid a Camp Granada-type ordeal, here are a few pitfalls you can try to help them avoid:


Having fun in the sun is one of the main appeals of summer camp, but a little precaution can help your kids avoid a nasty burn. Make sure they cover up when they can, and using sunscreen is a must. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF or 30 or greater. Make sure they know to put it on even when it’s cloudy or when they’re going swimming–finding a water-resistant sunscreen is key. Have them put on the sunscreen 15 minutes before going out, and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Heat illness

The sun can wreak havoc beyond causing sunburns. Heat illnesses–heat stroke and heat exhaustion–can be lethal, but also are preventable. In hot weather, make sure your kids know to drink extra water–and not wait until they are thirsty. They should wear light-colored clothing that is loose-fitting and lightweight. They should limit sun exposure during the hottest parts of the day. They should also know to watch for a few key signs of heat illness–including dizziness, weakness, cramps, nausea, rapid heartbeat, confusion, or a lack of sweating.

Slips, trips, and falls

Slips, trips, and falls are the most commonly reported causes of camp injuries according to the American Camp Association. Accidents will happen, but wearing proper footwear can lessen the chances of a mishap. Equip your children with shoes that have a good tread and explain that they should wear them whenever possible. Encourage them to wear flip-flops or sandals around pools rather than going barefoot. Also teach them the hiker’s adage regarding obstacles: Never step on what you can step over. Never step over what you can step around.


If they’re lucky, your children may encounter some wildlife at camp. There’s a good chance they’ll run into some less pleasant species, too, like mosquitoes and ticks, which can spread disease through their bites. Arming your kids with bug spray will give them a leg up on warding off pests. Products containing DEET–which is considered safe by the Environmental Protection Agency–can be effective against both mosquitoes and ticks. If the camp is in an area that is heavy with ticks, consider treating children’s clothes with Permethrin, which repels them. But note that the chemical is meant for clothing and is not to be applied directly to skin. Light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot, as does tucking your pants legs into your socks. Check for ticks daily.

Poisonous plants

Teach your children the old saying, “Leaves of three, let it be.” The internet allows you to show them what poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac look like.

Be safe, have fun!

All these warnings may make summer camp seem like something out of a “Friday the 13th” horror movie. But a little bit of planning and education can help ensure your children’s trip to summer camp is memorable for the right reasons.

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