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Phoenix Forward

5 summer camp maladies and how to resolve them

Keep your child from getting sick at summer camp

Sleeping away at camp can be one of the richest experiences of your child’s pint-sized life. Without Mom or Dad around, kids can become more independent, forge new friendships and build a community. But it’s also important for them to learn how to stay healthy outside the family home.

Vicki Greenberg, RN, nursing program manager for the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus, suggests solutions for the top five “owies” that send kids to the infirmary:



Problem: Staying in the sun too long, not getting enough to drink and not sleeping enough can create headaches.

Solution: Greenberg suggests talking to your child about wearing a hat, taking breaks from sun exposure and drinking water regularly. In addition, she recommends sending along medication and alerting the staff if your child is prone to migraines.


Parasites and other bugs

Problem: With so many kids sleeping in close quarters, parasites — such as lice — can spread across a camp population. In addition, ticks and mosquitoes are always a concern in wooded areas.

Solution: Greenberg urges parents to warn their children against sharing pillows, brushes or hats with cabin mates. She also suggests that parents supply their kids with insect repellent and teach them to check their bodies for ticks daily, and report offending critters to a nurse.



Problem: Bee stings, poison ivy and pollen can wreak havoc on a camper’s fun.

Solution: “Tell your child to avoid playing around bees because there might be a hive nearby,” Greenberg says, “and warn them to avoid contact with any plant that isn’t familiar.”

If your child has allergies to bees or pollen, be sure to pack medication. Even if your child isn’t known to be allergic to bees, he or she needs to know to alert the nurse after a sting.


Swimmer’s ear

Problem: When kids spend a lot of time swimming, they can get this uncomfortable infection, which occurs when water gets trapped in the ear.

Solution: “As a precaution, tell children to shake their heads a little bit,” Greenberg says, “and tug on their earlobes so the water can leak out after they exit the water.” She advises parents to pack a set of earplugs for their kids to wear while swimming.


Tummy troubles

Problem: Stomachaches, nausea and diarrhea are the most common illnesses affecting campers, Greenberg says. These maladies are often related to food poisoning or swallowing lake water, but, in some cases, they are a symptom of homesickness.

Solution: Tell your child to avoid drinking water while swimming. Greenberg advises warning children not to “eat food that has been sitting out too long or smells funny.”

Homesickness can be a more difficult problem to prevent. “Remind your child that they should share anxious feelings with the camp staff, if they are sad,” Greenberg suggests.

For kids prone to homesickness, she also recommends that parents pack a family photo and a beloved toy in their child’s suitcase to help comfort the child during his or her stay at camp.

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