Whether you count down the days to sleep-away camp or have reluctantly agreed to let Junior go, you won’t be around to make sure your little one does all the things they need to do to keep their summer Band-Aid- and infirmary-free, like reapply block after swimming — or even put it on in the first place. Top Doctor L. Scott Buckland, MD, a family doctor at Paoli Memorial Hospital, shares what you should talk about with your campers before they head out to ensure they return happy and healthy.
Talk to ‘em about tics
“Ideally, a responsible person at the camp should check young kids,” says Dr. Buckland, who also advises telling your kids where to check themselves for the nasty parasites — head, groin area, and skin folds, like behind the knee or elbow crease. “But they can also have a buddy look at their hair and back after playing outside to make sure they don’t have one.” And if they do find one, tell a counselor. “Don’t have another kid pull it out,” says Dr. Buckland. "They could do it wrong. If you pull it straight out, you’ll rip off the head, but part of the tic can remain."
Slather up at home
“Parents should do a dry run with sun block,” says Dr. Buckland. “Show them how to put it on, especially the key spots like the tip of the nose, tops of ears, and the back of the neck, and to keep it away from the eyes.”
Pack a cool hat
“Ideally, it should be a broad-brimmed, Indiana Jones-style hat, not a ball cap,” says Dr. Buckland. “It’s an excellent thing for a child to wear when out in the sun and it makes it fun — and their peers will think it’s cool.”
Take your sick days
Norovirus, which causes the stomach flu and other gastrointestinal problems, made a lot of kids sick this year, says Dr. Buckland. “It can spread quickly in a camp environment, so if a child is sick, they shouldn’t go to camp.”
Pretend it’s Mexico
“There’s a temptation to drink from mountain streams while hiking,” says Dr. Buckland, who warns kids should never, ever drink the water. It’s often filled with trouble-causing parasites like Giardia, which can lead to everything from diarrhea to an upset stomach and other tummy troubles.
“If your child gets stung and the stinger is still in their skin, they should pull it out right away because it will continue to pump venom into them,” says Dr. Buckland, who stresses that the longer it’s in, the worse the pain will be. “Yellow jackets are attracted to sweets, so make sure to keep lids on drinks and foods, and if they start to come around, walk away,” says Dr. Buckland. “And if your kid has a bee-sting allergy, they need to have a bee kit with them and everyone, especially camp counselors, need to be aware of it.”
Beat the bugs
"Mosquitoes love wet areas, especially after rain, and they typically come out after dusk,” says Dr. Buckland, who says it’s good for kids to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when they’re outside in the evening. “You can also run through how to apply a bug-spray like Off at home before they go,” says Dr. Buckland. “Tell them how to use it, watch them do it, and make sure they do a good job.”
Play without poison
Don’t let them leave until your tyke knows what poison ivy looks like, says Dr. Buckland. Go online, flip open a book — whatever you have to do to make sure they’re aware of the three-leafed troublemaker. “Poison ivy can range from trivial to really problematic,” says Dr. Buckland. “If your child thinks they have come into contact with it, they should shower, change their clothes, and wash them again before wearing.”
Whether it’s asthma or allergies, no kid wants to spend their summer sneezing or sitting on the sidelines. “Hopefully, they have a regime that works for them,” says Dr. Buckland, “and it’s a good idea to meet with their doc to tune-up their allergy meds before they go to camp.” Make sure counselors know if your kid is self-administering meds, and pack a rescue inhaler, like Albuterol, for emergency situations.
They might want to run barefoot all summer, but make sure they have more than their two favorite pairs of flops, says Dr. Buckland. Especially in the rain, flip-flops can cause kids to slip and slide, which can lead to stubbed toes and scraped knees.