Top 5 Ways To Stay Healthy at Camp

Top 5 Ways To Stay Healthy at Camp

18 June 2020

2020 has definitely been an unprecedented year so far.  I would say it is a safe bet that everyone who reads this has spent some considerable time thinking about their family’s health, and how to keep their loved ones safe and well.  Everyone has had to try and filter through the volumes of information that we receive daily from our news media and scientists, and much of that contradicts itself.  The confusion has led to even more uncertainty, and sadly for many, it meant that they felt the need to make the tough decision not to send their children to camp.

For many kids, the anticipation of going to camp can be almost unbearable.  From the minute they learn that they are registered, they begin to wonder who their counselors will be, which friends will be returning this year, and what crazy new activities they will get to enjoy.  The excitement builds up with each passing day.  They pack their clothes (a week before camp starts if they are anything like my daughter!) and begin to dream about what it will be like to finally come to Carolina Creek!  One of the worst things that can happen to any camper is to finally make it to camp, and have to leave early because of an illness; especially if that illness could have been prevented.  Of course, there is no “magic bullet” that exists which will completely eliminate the possibility of contracting a communicable illness while at camp.  However, I would like to remind everyone of some common sense steps that kids can take to greatly reduce that unfortunate occurrence.

1. Hand Washing

This one should be on the top of everyone’s wellness list.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Hand washing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16-21% (1).  As we have all learned (or re-learned) this year, germs can live on surfaces for a very long time.  When we touch those surfaces and then touch our faces, eyes, noses, etc. (which we do, more times than we ever imagined!) we can successfully transfer those germs to our body and they can make us ill.

The bottom line is that proper and frequent hand washing can prevent illnesses.  Remember, warm or cold water is fine!  Use soap and make a lather.  Make sure to get the back of the hands as well as under the fingernails.  Remember to wash for at least 20 seconds (roughly as long as it takes to sing “Jesus Loves Me” all the way through) and then turn the water off using a paper towel.

“What about hand sanitizer?” you may be asking yourself.  Well, if it contains the proper amount of alcohol and is used properly, it is definitely effective in killing germs and viruses on the hands.  However, it doesn’t clean solids from the skin very well.  While hand sanitizer is a relatively effective way to clean hands that already look clean,  it is most effective when used after soap and water washing.

2. Social Distancing

One of the many new phrases we are all getting used to is “social distancing”.  But what does it mean?  It means keeping a safer physical distance between you and someone who may be ill.  The CDC recommends a minimum distance of six feet (roughly two arms’ length) between you and someone not in your household.  This helps to minimize the risk of coming in contact with droplets that the person you are speaking with may be . . . dropping (say it, don’t spray it!).

At Carolina Creek this summer, following state guidelines put in place by our health departments and the governor, we instituted the “cohort” model.  What this means is we considered all campers who were in the same cabin to belong to the same “family group” or cohort.  We intentionally kept the cohorts very small.  These kids and counselors were allowed to interact closely with one another, but had to remain socially distanced from other cohorts, or wear masks over their noses and faces (to help stop the droplets) when it was not possible to stay at a distance.  This helped to minimize the risk of an illness spreading to the entire camp.

3. Avoid Touching Your Face

This one may sound like an extension of number one, but let’s face it, (see what I did there?) we are not always able to wash our hands with soap and water, or even sanitize them.  If you are like me, you never realized that you touched your face more than 45 times every 30 seconds.  Oh, the things we learn in a pandemic.  However, it is possible to train yourself to be conscious of this bad habit.  The truth is, your hands could be totally covered in, let’s say the influenza virus, but if you don’t help it out by sticking it up your nose, or rubbing it in your eyes, a virus on your hands really can’t hurt you much!  It will just sit there until you wash it off.

4. Get Plenty of Sleep

Okay, this one is just not fair, right?  I mean, who gets any sleep at camp?  Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, people who do not get enough sleep are more likely to become ill after being exposed to a virus.  It can even affect how long it takes you to get well after you become ill (2).  Encourage your campers to make a pact with themselves that after the lights go out, they will try and catch some serious Z’s.  It could make the difference between having a great experience at camp, and having to go home early because of an illness.  And trust me, your child’s counselor will thank you for it!

5. Good Nutrition

Last, but certainly not least, it is no secret that your body needs good nutrition to feel good.  A diet rich in vitamins and minerals can help your camper’s body be ready to fight off an attack from a nasty gang of germs and viruses.  According to Harvard University, “A balanced diet consisting of a range of vitamins and minerals, . . . most effectively primes the body to fight infection and disease.”(3)  This good habit can start months before your camper even gets to camp.  Think of it, you can now say, with a straight face, that eating your vegetables helps you go to camp!  If that’s not some powerful leverage, I don’t know what is!

Fortunately, Carolina Creek works very hard to offer some fantastic, nutritious choices during our meal times.  Along with our world famous hand-cut chicken strips and our extra-cheesy homemade mac and cheese, your camper will get to choose from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, and other great tasting, and great for you foods!  While eating an apple a day is, in reality, no guarantee that you will indeed keep the doctor away, according to experts it may very well be a great way to ensure a healthy and happy camp experience!

Well there you have it.  Five easy ways to help your camper avoid illness at camp.  Share these tips with your camper who is right now eagerly anticipating his or her time at Carolina Creek.  Not only will these great habits help them stay well at camp, they will also help at home, school, and church.  Let’s all work together to poke 2020 right in the eye, and try to keep everyone healthy this year!