Attending their first overnight summer camp is a milestone for children. For some kids, camp is the first time they will be away from home. As a mom, it’s natural to be a little apprehensive about your child’s first sleep-away camp. At the same time, there’s no need to go overboard when it comes to “germaphobia” either. So here are a few simple tips you can use to help ensure a healthy summer camp experience.

Teach Healthy Hygiene Habits

It’s important for children to practice healthy habits while away at summer camp to limit the spread of germs. Teach your children to wash their hands after using the restroom and before eating. They should wash with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, or the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

Another healthy habit to pass along to your children is to cough and sneeze into their sleeve, not their hands, to prevent germs from being transmitted to other surfaces via contaminated hands. To make this fun, teach your child how to do the Vampire Sneeze!

Staying Safe in the Great Outdoors

Keeping your camper healthy doesn’t stop at warding off germs. Remember that your child will be spending a significant amount of time outside in the sun, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses. Pack a refillable water bottle so your child can stay hydrated throughout the day. Also, make sure to pack sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and adequate UVA & UVB protection to prevent sunburns and sun poisoning. Ask your child’s camp counselor to make sure it is applied regularly. And while you’re at it, ask about the camp policy on insect repellent use. Smart use of insect repellent will add to your child’s comfort and safety in “buggy weather.”  

Unpacking

When your little camper returns home, take a good look at reusable water bottles and sports equipment. If they were well-used, and especially if they stayed wet for several days, they may need a good cleaning (first), followed by sanitizing with a bleach solution (one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water).

Feeling Sick? Stay Home (sorry).

According to the American Camp Association, 5 to 7 percent of all illnesses spread at summer camp start before the children arrive – meaning someone brought that bug with them. Even if it’s minor, all it takes is one sick child to infect many other campers. If your little one comes down with a cold before camp, contact the camp director to ask how long a camper must be symptom-free before arriving. If the illness starts close to the first day of camp, arrangements may be possible to give your child a delayed start date.

Here’s to happy and healthy summer camp memories!