(HealthDay News) -- Regular hand washing and proper hygiene are essential to avoiding common summer-camp health issues such as lice, pinworm and bathing-suit dermatitis, according to a former summer camp physician.
Dr. Alfred Scott Lea, now a professor of infectious disease at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, said making sure cuts and abrasions are clean is particularly important around lakes and rivers, where bacteria can cause potentially dangerous wound infections.
"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," Lea said in a university news release. "But parents can take steps to help make their child's summer as healthy and painless as possible. 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."
Lea suggested other ways to prepare children for potential health hazards, including:
Focus on prevention. Be sure to pack essentials such as sunscreen and bug spray. It's important to plan ahead for children who are on medications or have special needs, Lea said. "A lot of children need to bring medicines to camp for asthma, [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder] and seizures, just to name a few," he said. "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."
Voice concerns. Parents also should speak directly to the camp director to discuss any worries they may have, Lea said. "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 said. "Worrying about a child horseback riding is normal, but you might feel better when you know your child will be wearing a helmet."
Be realistic. Parents should also recognize that not all camp injuries are preventable, Lea said. "Put 300 little kids in 20 cabins, encourage energy and competitiveness, and things happen," he said. "Kids fall. Baseballs fly astray. Boys have sword fights with golf clubs. No amount of preparation can stop kids from being kids."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more camping health and safety tips.