Summer camps are a great opportunity for children to have fun, learn and make new friends. However, our children’s health and safety are paramount, especially when they spend long hours outdoors.

In this article, we look at some of the most important issues you need to consider when sending your children to summer camp.

Sun safety

Day camps are full of outdoor activities. Exposure to the sun represents a significant risk for children, as their skin is more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Excessive exposure can lead to sunburn, dehydration, sunstroke and, in the long term, increased risk of skin cancer. Here are a few tips to help protect your children from the sun.

Clothing and hat

Opt for lightweight, long-sleeved, light-colored clothing. Fabrics like cotton are breathable and offer UV protection. Clothing with built-in UV protection is also available and can be very effective. A wide-brimmed hat is also essential to protect face, neck and ears from the sun.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory. They protect the eyes from UVA and UVB rays, which can cause eye damage. For the best protection, we recommend that your child wears at least category 3 sunglasses. Choose age-appropriate glasses that fit snugly on your child’s nose. You can also opt for a retaining cord to prevent them from getting lost.

Sunscreen

Even on cloudy days, your child will need to apply sunscreen on his own or with the help of an adult. That’s why it’s essential to teach your child the importance of protecting his or her skin and providing the right sunscreen. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that’s easy to apply. Aerosols are generally easier to spread on the skin. Opt for a water-resistant product too.

Teach your child how and when to apply sunscreen. The product should be spread on all exposed areas of the skin, about 30 minutes before going out in the sun, and renewed every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

sun safety for kids

Hydratation

Hydration is essential, especially on hot summer days. Dehydration can lead to heat stroke, cramps and fatigue. Children may not always feel thirsty, so it’s crucial to educate them about staying hydrated throughout the day.

Drink regularly

Encourage children to drink water regularly, even if they don’t feel particularly thirsty. Prepare insulated reusable water bottles, which they can take with them and which keep drinks cool all day long.

Prefer water

Choose water as main drink. Sodas, fruit juices and other sugary drinks have undesirable effects on health and can contribute to dehydration. However, if it will encourage them to drink more, you can add fruit slices to give the water a pleasant taste.

kids who drink water on a reusable bottle

Healthy eating

Good nutrition is essential if children are to have the energy they need to take full advantage of their summer camp activities. Preparing a lunch box is therefore an important step in ensuring a good day.

Balanced meals

Prepare nourishing, balanced, nutrient-rich meals. Include fresh fruits and vegetables (which also contribute to hydration), lean proteins (such as chicken or tofu), low-fat dairy products and whole grains. Avoid processed and high-sugar foods.

Try to vary lunches and snacks as much as possible from one day to the next, to prevent your child from getting bored. Choose cold meals such as sandwiches, wraps, salads and raw vegetables, which are more pleasant to eat in hot weather. If you’re planning hot meals, find out whether your child has access to a microwave on site.

Sufficient quantities

To ensure that your child has enough energy for all the day’s activities, it’s best to plan for one lunch and two snacks. Snacks can be as simple as fresh fruit or yogurt.

Insulated lunch box

Avoid paper and plastic bags, which don’t keep food fresh. Instead, choose an insulated lunch box and add an ice pack to help maintain temperature. You can also freeze certain ingredients, such as fruit, to keep them fresher longer.

Peanut-free dishes

Many children are allergic to peanuts, and it’s possible for children to swap snacks or taste someone else’s snack. That’s why most summer camps prohibit peanut or other nut-based foods. Ask the organization for more information. Inform the team of any food allergies your child may have. Make sure staff are trained to handle emergency situations and have access to an action plan in case of allergic reaction.

food safety for kids in summer camp

Precautions against small animals

Whether in a park or in the forest, your children will surely have plenty of activities in nature, where insects and animals are also present. Some can carry diseases, so it’s important to keep them safe.

Ticks and Lyme disease

Ticks are widespread in rural Quebec and can transmit Lyme disease and other illnesses. These small insects are mainly found in tall grass and brush. So it’s important to educate and prepare your children to avoid bites.

Make them wear long clothing and provide them with an insect repellent suitable for ticks. The product should be applied to clothing and exposed skin, avoiding the face. Tell them to stay on the trails as much as possible.

When you get home, check your children’s skin for ticks. If you find one, remove it as recommended and contact a health professional.

Mosquitoes and West Nile virus

As well as being very unpleasant, mosquitoes can carry infections such as West Nile virus. Long, light-colored clothing and mosquito repellent can help keep these insects away and prevent bites.

Animals and rabies

During outdoor activities, your children may come across wild animals and be tempted to approach them. Some animals, such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, can transmit rabies. Teach your children to avoid wild and unfamiliar animals: don’t get too close, and don’t try to feed or touch them. In the event of a bite or scratch, contact a health professional as soon as possible to obtain a vaccine to prevent the disease from developing.

kids lookin for insects

Illnesses and vaccines

Summer camps bring together many children from different regions, increasing the risk of spreading infectious diseases. Vaccination is your best protection against certain diseases.

Vaccinations not only protect your child against potentially serious illnesses, they also contribute to the health safety of the whole camp by preventing epidemics. What’s more, certain outdoor activities can expose children to specific risks.

Check with your camp to find out which vaccinations are required or recommended, and whether your child’s vaccination record is up to date. Common vaccines include those against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and hepatitis B. You should also make sure that influenza and meningococcal vaccinations are up to date.

Diseases

If your child shows symptoms of any illness, such as fever, cough or runny nose, inform the camp and keep your child at home until he or she is better. Ask for an appointment with a doctor or pediatrician for a diagnosis and appropriate recommendations.

If your child has health problems and is undergoing medical treatment, it is your duty to inform the organization and provide your child with the necessary medication.

kids playing outside

Pediatric services and clinics in Montreal

Preparation is the key to your child’s safe and enjoyable summer camp experience. By following these health tips, you can minimize the risks and maximize the fun. For personalized advice tailored to your child’s age and planned camp activities, don’t hesitate to contact a health professional in the Montreal area.

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At ELNA Médical, our team is here to support you and provide you with all the information you need to ensure your child’s well-being at summer camp. Have a worry-free summer, with happy, healthy children!