Every year in the U.S., more than 14 million children and adults attend camp. The American Camp Association (ACA) counts 8,400 resident (overnight) camps and 5,600 day camps from which to choose. In addition to staples such as horseback riding, archery, swimming, hiking and crafting, camps are adding new programs to appeal to a wider audience. Some of these include gardening, college planning, health and wellness, community service and cooking.
From the most adventurous to the tamest, there’s one thing all camps have in common: illness and injuries. Nothing ruins a camp experience faster than a trip to the ER, so we’ll tell you how to keep your kids safe from the most common camp injuries and what they should do in a lightning storm.
Something in the food, water or my cabin mate made me sick.
Kids at camp (and the camp staff) are more than twice as likely to get sick than injured. Possible problems and helpful tips to avoid them include:
- Gastroenteritis, food poisoning and other stomach pains from contaminated food or water
- Have a discussion with kids about food safety, including washing hands before meals; eating raw or uncooked foods; sharing food; and eating from potentially contaminated sources such as salad bars
- Teach kids not to swallow pool or lake water
- Asthma and allergies
- Make sure kids pack adequate amounts of medication, including epi-pens if needed
- Infectious illnesses, such as colds, flu and even mumps and measles, which are making a comeback
- Make sure kids are up to date on their vaccinations, including tetanus; get yours (and a physical for camp, if necessary) at one of 29 DFW CareNow locations
- Teach kids to cough and sneeze properly and the correct way to wash their hands
Camp — it’s a trip.
According to the ACA, trips, slips and falls are the injuries most commonly reported at camp. In fact, sprains and strains make up nearly 30% of all camp injuries and are often related to rough terrain and improper footwear. Here’s how to protect your kids from fall and collision injuries, including broken bones and concussion:
- Pack the correct shoes for the activities they will be doing
- Make sure they have the proper equipment and safety gear
- Send a refillable water bottle and remind them to stay hydrated (dehydration causes fatigue and a loss of mental performance and physical coordination, making kids more susceptible to injury)
Make sure your kids can swim like a fish.
If the camp you’ve selected offers recreational swimming — and 86% of them do — it’s imperative that children know how to swim and have a good grasp on water safety rules. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4 and the second leading cause for ages 5-14.
In addition to the obvious safety implications, most camps require kids to pass a swim test on the first day. Those who don’t pass must stay in designated areas designed for younger kids, which can be awkward and embarrassing for older children.
Packing over-the-counter ear drops and insisting that kids use them before and after swimming and showers can help keep moisture out of the ear canal and prevent swimmer’s ear.
When thunder roars, go indoors.
According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), there are an average of 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes during some 100,000 thunderstorms each year in the U.S. Lightning storms can happen anytime but are more frequent — and cause more deaths and injuries — in spring and summer. In fact, the Fourth of July is historically one of the most deadly times of year for lightning.
Here are some tips for weathering a lightning storm:
- Teach your kids this rhyme: When thunder roars, go indoors. Even if they can’t see lightning, it can strike as far as 10 miles away from the storm
- If your hair stands up, get inside quick: This could be a (very bad) sign that positive charges are rising through you, reaching toward the negatively charged storm — seek shelter immediately
- Choose shelter wisely: The safest place is a building with plumbing and electricity because those provide a path for lightning to travel down to the ground. Stay away from windows and anything that conducts electricity, including landline telephones, which are the No. 1 way people get struck by lightning indoors. A car with a metal roof is also a safer place to be than outside (but don’t touch anything metal), near water, under a tree (No. 2 cause of lightning casualties) or in a building without plumbing or electricity
- If you’re unavoidably caught outside: Don’t be, be near, or be under the tallest object — and ditch the umbrella!
- When it’s safe, you can help someone who’s been struck by lightning: Unlike someone in contact with a telephone line or other live wire, a lightning victim is not electrified and may need immediate emergency medical treatment for cardiac arrest, burns or other injuries
If your child gets injured at camp, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
Find a fast Medical City ER near you.