As summer sets in, nearly six million campers will attend summer camps in the U.S. And while summer is typically not know as cold or flu season, illnesses and injuries – some very serious – occur every year at hundreds of camps.
Flu viruses and infectious diseases spread quickly through camps due to the close contact of campers, soiled skin and surfaces and sharing of towels or clothes. Infectious diseases cause 20 percent of all illnesses among campers and staff members. Additionally, sports camps have the added feature of common sports injuries that then make campers susceptible – through open wounds – to infection.
To help prepare for camp, parents should understand how to help prevent these illnesses and talk to their children.
"Talking about how to stay safe from infection and illness is a very important part of preparing for camp," said Grant Doornbos, M.D. in Louisville, Ky. and former National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I athlete. "Especially those going to sports camps, if you have to show them what some infections look like in pictures, while sometimes scary, it can help them understand what to look for on their skin or their teammates' skin."
Ten prevention tips parents should share with their campers:
- Throughout the day, wash hands with antimicrobial antiseptic soap or alcohol sanitizers, if a sink is not available.
- Wash hands and forearms above the elbow immediately before sports using an antimicrobial wash or wipe that contains chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), such as Hibiclens soap or Hibistat® wipes. This protects the skin from bacteria for up to 6 hours during skin-to-skin contact sports.
- Shower as soon as possible after sports activity in hot water with an antimicrobial cleaner with four percent CHG, which kills germs (including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA], a type of staph infection that is resistant to many common antibiotics(2)) on contact and for up to six hours after washing.
- Clean sports equipment after use and ensure it dries completely after cleaning. Use antimicrobial wipes or sprays on equipment that cannot be washed. Make sure the contact time is observed from the label instructions to insure disinfection.
- Keep wounds covered with clean, dry bandages. Have them checked by a doctor if they are red or won't heal or if flu like symptoms develop (fever).
- Put dirty clothes and towels in a separate bag, not in backpacks or sports bags with clean clothing.
- Wash and dry clothes and towels on the hottest setting possible. Make sure all fabrics are completely dry before removing from the dryer.
- Do not share any personal hygiene items, towels or clothing with others.
- Know the signs and symptoms of common skin-to-skin contact illnesses including impetigo, ringworm and MRSA.
- Tell a coach or camp counselor about a rash, bite or painful sore immediately.
"I wish there had been sprays, wipes and soaps that killed these potentially dangerous bugs when I went to wrestling camp," said Dr. Doornbos. "I had to experience too many of these infections myself before I knew how to prevent them. Now, I don't go anywhere, especially the gym, without Hibistat wipes. We still see too many cases of athletes with bad infections that could have been prevented."
Molnlycke Health Care US, LLC