5 Must-Do's for a Healthier Summer at Camp
With all this talk about the flu, the cold, and (particularly) Coronavirus in the news lately, we all want to make sure that we stay healthy. Most importantly, though, we want to make sure that our kids are staying healthy. Of course, we can’t always prevent or avoid every sickness, but it also begs the question: Are we doing enough to minimize our risk of communicating the further spread of illnesses? Summer camp staff deal with this same question every summer, and although we can do as much as we can, we all need to make sure our kids are doing their best to not get sick, too.
Summer camps operate similar to schools— it’s a place with a high-density, everybody is often in close contact with one another, and (in the spirit of sportsmanship and play) there is a lot of sharing going on. We’ve compiled a list of the top 5 things that staff, parents, and kids can do to help prevent getting sick and sharing that sickness:
1— Be honest with the camp staff about health-related problems that your child might be dealing with. When those health-history forms are sent out in the “Welcome to Camp” envelope, it’s best to just be straight-up with the responses. Not only will the staff be able to cater to the needs of your child should something occur, but also help prevent and anticipate problems that are likely to happen. The more detailed those health forms are, the better the staff will be prepared to accommodate for those needs.
2— Keep a child at home when they are sick. According to an American Camp Association "Healthy Camp Study", somewhere between 5-7% of illnesses found at summer camps actually start before the child even arrives. When children arrive at camp while they are already sick, they pose a major threat to the rest of the campers and staff being that they will be living in such close-quarters. This includes everything from the flu, to psychological diagnoses, and from strep-throat to lice.
3— Make sure your kids’ vaccinations are up to date. Schools, like most camps, will require proof of immunizations before enrollment. This, of course, is for the safety of each individual child, however it also plays into the safety of the entire camp. This is the idea of Herd Immunity. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has many articles and videos that discuss the theory. Essentially, if vaccinations dip below about 90%, then the population runs a risk of having an outbreak of some previously prevented sickness.
4— Teach your child self-advocacy and care. When children get sick at home, a parent will often take command of the situation— but at summer camp, with so many children around, every kid needs to be their own best advocate when they start to feel bad. Often times, in unfamiliar circumstances, kids will be too nervous to ask for help. Some kids with a tummy ache will remain silent until they throw up, and some may go four days without a bowel movement because they are anxious about the bathroom situation. We are all responsible for teaching this independence.
5— Instill the value of good hygiene. Summer camp staff are trained to keep an eye out for the kids who might not be brushing their teeth, or wearing the same clothes for multiple days in a row, but understanding the importance of good hygiene starts at home. Preventing sicknesses and diseases starts and ends with each individual. Every action counts! —from making sure kids understand to wash their hands before meals and after using the bathroom, to changing sheets every week, to sneezing into the crease of their elbow.
We all want our kids to be healthy when they leave for summer camp, and we all want them to stay healthy while they’re gone through their return home. Parents and staff will always do what they can do prevent sickness, but it takes that teamwork to ensure that the kids are on the same page. Summer camps and schools are naturally places where kids share illnesses with each other and they can spread quickly— but the skills, values, and independence that they develop there are worth that risk. But, we can all do our part to minimize that risk so that they all learn in the healthiest environment.