Summer camp is often a rite of passage for children and a necessity for many families needing to fill the summer hours when school is out. Whether it’s a traditional overnight summer camp or a specialty day camp, kids will likely be participating in some form of outdoor activity and living and playing in close proximity to other children.
Health professionals at MedExpress, a walk-in medical care provider that serves nearly three million patients each year, cite the combination of outdoor play and communal spaces for increasing a child’s likelihood of picking up a camp-related illness.
Here are six common post-camp health concerns:
- Water-Related Illness: From swimming pools to lakes, summer camp and swimming are practically synonymous. However, summer is peak time for waterborne illnesses. Be on the lookout for pink eye, swimmer’s ear, and recreational water illness − a sickness that occurs when swimmers come in direct contact with contaminated water resulting in diarrhea.
- Infected Bug Bites: It’s not uncommon for campers to return with bug bites, which will typically clear up in a few days. However, if your child has pus in or around the bite, swollen glands or increased swelling, pain, or redness around the bite, it may be infected and antibiotics may be required.
- Poison Ivy/Rashes: “Leaves of three” can sometimes be hard to spot, especially for children. Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all result in an itchy, red rash. Within 2-3 days, small blisters may begin to form. It’s important to wash all clothing after a child returns from camp as the oils may still remain.
“If the rash covers a large area of the body, is near the mouth, eyes, or genital areas, has pus coming from the blisters, or your child is experiencing a fever over 100 degrees, consider seeking medical attention,” said Dr. Julia Ellison, Area Medical Director, MedExpress.
- Head Lice: Sesame seed-sized white specks on the scalp, often behind ears and at the base of the neck, are one key sign of lice. The eggs or nits can often be found one-quarter of an inch down the hair shaft.
Fortunately, there aren’t any serious medical consequences with head lice. They’re itchy and scratchy, but they don’t spread disease. However, it’s important to know that constant scratching can open the skin and lead to a secondary infection.
- Ticks: Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread through the bite of an infected blacklegged (deer) tick. If the infected tick is attached to a person for 36-48 hours, Lyme disease can be transmitted.
Make sure to check children’s clothing and belongings for ticks upon returning home. If a tick is lodged, use tweezers to remove the tick by squeezing near the head. If unable to remove the entire tick, consider seeking medical attention.
- Bedbugs: Bedbugs are spread through contact with bedding, clothing and luggage that contains the bug. Bedbug bites are small, itchy, red bumps that can sometimes form in a straight line on the body. Inspect your child for bites and their belongings for dark excrement spots on fabric, tiny white eggs, and skin shedding from nymphs. If bedbugs are present, call an exterminator.
If unsure about the severity of your child’s illness, it is always best to consult a health care professional to determine if further care is needed. MedExpress centers are staffed by a full medical team to help campers have a healthy return home. With no appointments necessary and most insurance accepted, each center can diagnosis and treat most common post-camp health concerns.