Lice, ticks, pinworm – oh my! Before parents send their little ones off to summer camp, they can help prepare the kiddies for creepy crawlers and other potential health hazards, with tips offered by former summer-camp physician and camper dad himself, Dr. Alfred Scott Lea, professor of infectious diseases at UTMB.
“Some of what kids encounter at camp – and that parents must endure, from colds and viruses to broken bones – is often just part of being a kid. But parents can take steps to help make their child’s summer as healthy and painless as possible,” says Dr. Lea. “A little prep work, such as packing the right essentials and communicating with the camp nurse, can go a long way toward avoiding the most common problems.”
Dr. Lea’s Top Tips for Avoiding Ouches and Itches
Cleanliness is next to godliness: Just like home, regular hand washing and other good hygiene habits are the key to avoiding many of camp’s most common scourges, from lice and pinworm to bathing suit dermatitis. Keeping cuts and abrasions clean is especially important around lakes and rivers, where dangerous bacteria can enter the wounds and cause serious harm.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Pack the obvious essentials – sunscreen, bug spray – but also think about any special needs your child may have and plan ahead. “A lot of children need to bring medicines to camp – for asthma, ADHD, seizures, just to name a few. Make sure the nurse knows how to administer these medicines and be sure to supply extra just to be safe. Also alert camps to dietary needs,” says Dr. Lea.
Talk turkey with the camp director to put your mind at ease: “If you’re especially concerned about any activities or possible injuries, talk to the camp about what they’re doing to make safety a priority,” he adds. “Worrying about a child horseback riding is normal – but you might feel better when you know your child will be wearing a helmet.”
Of course, not all camp accidents are avoidable. “Put 300 little kids in 20 cabins, encourage energy and competitiveness and things happen. Kids fall. Baseballs fly astray. Boys have sword fights with golf clubs! No amount of preparation can stop kids from being kids,” he says.
Dr. Lea’s love of camping began in 1950 in Texas at Camp Stewart, the oldest continually operated private camp in the Southwest. As an adult, Dr. Lea returned with his three children each summer as the camp doctor. Now he’s looking forward to sharing the joys of camping with his grandchildren.
Dr. A. Scott Lea
Dr. Lea is a professor of infectious diseases at UTMB.
Visit the page for the UTMB Travel Medicine Clinic.
To reach the clinic or to make an appointment, call 409-747-0775 (adults) or 409-772-2798 (children).
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