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Summer Camp Safety Guide

Kids love to get out and play during the hot summer months. One option for keeping kids entertained during the summer involves dropping the energetic children off at summer camp, a supervised program for adolescents, pre-teens, and teenagers. Many summer camps have structured outdoor recreational programs that involve physical activities, such as canoeing, backpacking, hiking, building campfires, and archery. In addition, many summer camps engage the children's learning abilities with various educational activities, such as music, computers, foreign languages, mathematics, and the performance arts. Summer camps cater to children with special needs, including overweight children who need a specialized diet and workout regimen to promote weight loss.

What Parents Should Know About Summer Camp

Parents looking for a summer camp for their children should beware of certain safety traps that could cause their children to endure serious injury. Therefore, parents should take the proper precautions to prevent a supposedly fun and exciting time from turning into a nightmare. The majority of summer camps have medical personnel on staff. In addition, the medical personnel will assist kids who have developed an illness, injury, allergies, or other specific medical conditions. Most summer camps have first aid supplies and a staff well versed in CPR and other safety protocol; however, does this really mean that the kids are safe? Some child psychologists suggest that parents conduct their own investigation regarding the safety of the summer camp before enrolling their children into the program. For instance, parents should check to see if the summer camp offers safety devices, trained personnel, and a safe campsite. In addition, parents should check to see if their kids have allergies, and determine whether the camp grounds will provide the medication for the child on schedule. If the summer camp refuses to administer medication, then it may not be a suitable choice for the child.

Teaching Your Child to Stay Safe at Summer Camp

Parents can take an active role in preparing their child for summer camp. For instance, parents with toddlers aged six months or less should take an active role in protecting their babies from sunburn. Parents can do this by dressing their infants in long, lightweight jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and hats that shade the front and back of the head. If the toddler still experiences intense sun exposure, then the parents can lightly cover the child with at least 15 SPF to small areas on the body, including the child's face and back of the hands. If the infant ends up receiving a sunburn, then the parent should take a damp towel and lightly compress it on the burn to relieve the pain. The same rule of dressing appropriately to shield against harmful ultraviolet radiation applies to children of all ages. Older children should consider wearing a SPF rash guard full sleeved shirt, brimmed hat and sunglasses for added protection. In addition, parents should instruct their oldest children to stay in the shade whenever possible, and to take the lead for the youngest in the group. Kids should stay away from areas where sun reflects, such as water or sand dunes, and where the chance of incurring a sunburn increases.

Parents and facility instructors should pay close attention to ensure that the campers do not endure excessive heat stress. Kids should not participate in activities lasting more than fifteen minutes in environments that have high heat and humidity levels. The duration of the exercise program greatly depends on the child's tolerance to strenuous exercise in warmer climates. If the child needs to get acclimated to the weather, then allow a period of seven to fourteen days for the child to get used to the heat, especially if it is very humid outside. In addition, children should drink plenty of water and other fluids to stay hydrated. If the child engages in physical activity for too long, then he or she may need to carry a sports drink that contains electrolytes to replenish energy levels lost while sweating. In addition, children should wear light-colored and lightweight clothing for easy sweat absorption. Kids should play games of short duration and take frequent water breaks in cooler environments, especially if they feel hot or fatigued.

Kids need close supervision when alone or near a pool. Summer camp facility instructors should have an erected fence on all four sides of the pool. Each side of the fence should have no openings, gaps, or cracks that a young child can squeeze through, under, or over with ease. Parents should investigate the pool area to make sure that the pool gates have self-closing and self-latching hinges. In addition, the facility should have an alarm installed on the exit door that leads to the poolside. The facility should have rescue equipment, such as a life preserver and a shepherd's hook to grab children who appear to be drowning. Kids should not use swimming aids as a substitute for a life preserver. “Floaties” tend to discourage kids from actively learning how to swim, and it gives them a sense of dependence and false security. Parents should try to have their kids taught how to swim at a very young age to prevent children from drowning; however, this decision should be based on the individual child's developmental readiness. If a child is in the process of taking swimming lessons, then an adult should stick around within arm’s length in case the child needs help. A poolside supervisor should know CPR. In addition, a poolside supervisor should be able to scope out the pool for defective equipment. If a child gets caught in a damaged drain, then he or she can become trapped and quite possibly drown. Parents should investigate the pool to ensure that it has anti-entrapment devices installed on the drains. Lastly, parents should closely supervise their child around above-ground pools. Children have a tendency to lean themselves over the edge of these pools, which causes them to fall over and potentially incur an injury.

Summer camps offer a great chance for kids to explore nature on a lake. Boating can be a fun activity for children of all ages; however, it can be potentially dangerous without the right precautions. Children should always wear a life preserver at all times while on boats or similar floatation devices. Kids should try on the life preserver to ensure that it fits them correctly. If the jacket is loose after strapping the child, then an effort should be made to replace it. As with swimming areas, blow-up water rings, floaties, rafts, air mattresses, and toys should not be used as a replacement for a life jacket. Adults should refrain from drinking alcohol or consuming drugs around kids, especially while boating.

Kids love to swim, especially out in the open water! Parents should take extra precautions to ensure that their children make it back safely. The open water has undercurrents that can sweep away the strongest of swimmers. Even adults need a swimming buddy to make sure that this does not happen to them! Parents should investigate the summer camp to ensure that it employs lifeguards to watch over children while they are swimming in lakes and ponds. Lifeguards should pay closer attention to young children around water bodies by remaining within an arm's length in the event something bad happens. Parents should discourage their children from diving off high surfaces to prevent injuries to the head, neck, back, and legs. Children should never swim in canals or any other water body with fast undercurrents. Never allow kids to swim in the ocean without an adult present. Kids should know to swim parallel in case they get caught in rip tides.

For more information on keeping kids their safest this summer, check out the following resources:

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