07-25-2013 (Dayton, OH) -
When your child comes back from summer camp you want to hear all about the friends they made, fun stuff they did, and the bugs and critters they found-what you don’t want is them bringing home any bugs or critters that may have found them.
There are many critters and illnesses that your child can bring home with them from summer camp. Here are some things you want to look out for before they settle in back home.
When your child is outdoors there is always the threat of ticks. “Ticks can carry several diseases, including Lyme disease,” says Terrie Koss, infection preventionist at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “A female tick is about the size of a sesame seed on a hamburger bun, a male tick is a little bit smaller. It is important to inspect your kids everywhere as soon as they get home.”
It is especially important to check behind your child’s ears, in the groin area, behind the knees and under the arms; these are sneaky places that ticks like to hide. Also remember to search your child’s belongings such as their backpacks and sleeping bags. If a tick is attached to your child pull the tick out close to its head with tweezers in a slow steady motion. If all parts of the tick are unable to be removed seek medical attention.
Another critter that can ruin a summer is bedbugs. A major way that bedbugs are spread is through contact; when people sleep on beds or use luggage that have them. They can also travel in clothing and because of that they are spreading most rapidly in public places.
When your child comes home from summer camp check their belongings before they are brought into the house. Check everything thoroughly and look for any signs of bedbugs such as:
- Dark spots, about this size of a pen dot, which are bed bug excrement and may bleed on the fabric
- Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and white
- Skins that nymphs shed as they grow larger
If you have bedbugs it is important to call an exterminator right away. Also bag and clean all affected items; dry on hot for at least an hour.
“If someone is bitten by a bedbug, the bite will feel itchy,” says Koss. “Bedbug bites look like little red bumps (similar to mosquito bites) and they can sometimes occur in a line on the body.
If you think your child has been bitten by a bedbug, wash the bites with soap and water. Using calamine lotion, an anti-itch cream, or cool compresses can help with the itching. In some cases, an antihistamine by mouth can reduce itching. Bites clear up in 1-2 weeks.
“Encourage your child not to scratch the bites because doing so can cause a skin infection, such as impetigoand, rarely, cellulitis.” Says Koss. “If an infection does occur, a doctor may need to prescribe antibiotics to treat it.”
When children are at camp they want to share everything such as their pillows, sleeping bags, hats, hair brushes, etc. This type of behavior can lead to the spread of head lice.
“If your child comes home and is itching his or her head a lot or has red bumps on the back of their neck, it’s a possibly that they might have lice,” says Koss. “Lice aren't dangerous and they don't spread disease, but they are very contagious. Their bites may cause a child's scalp to become itchy and inflamed, and persistent scratching may lead to skin irritation and even infection.”
To check for lice, simply take a fine-tooth stainless steel nit comb and thoroughly check your child’s scalp. On dark hair the lice can look like dandruff; you can easily tell the difference because dandruff can be easily removed whereas lice eggs are firmly attached. On lighter color hair head lice are basically invisible to the naked eye they are tan to grayish-white in color. If your child has lice your doctor will most likely recommend a medicated shampoo, cream rinse or lotion to kill the lice.
If lice has infested your child’s hair or belongings, you will need to take serious precautions to avoid reinfestation including:
- Washing all bed linens and clothing that's been recently worn by anyone in your home who's infested in very hot water (130º F [54.4º C]), then put them in the hot cycle of the dryer for at least 20 minutes.
- Having bed linens, clothing, and stuffed animals and plush toys that can't be washed dry-cleaned. Or, put them in airtight bags for 2 weeks.
- Vacuuming carpets and any upholstered furniture (in your home or car).
- Soaking hair-care items like combs, barrettes, hair ties or bands, headbands, and brushes in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for 1 hour. You can also wash them in hot water or just throw them away.
Because lice are easily passed from person to person in the same house, bedmates and infested family members will also need treatment to prevent the lice from coming back.
Kids love to be outdoors and play in the woods. At a young age it is hard to tell which plants are dangerous and which ones are fine to touch.
“If you child comes home with a rash that is red, blistering and won’t stop itching then it could be poison ivy or poison oak,” says Koss. “A rash can last up to 3 weeks, it is important to keep it covered so it doesn’t spread to anyone else. If the rash spreads all over the body, or if the child has trouble breathing then take them to the hospital immediately.”
It’s also important to wash clothing immediately upon returning from camp as the oils from poison ivy or poison oak can stay in clothing. Poison ivy has clusters of three leaves; teach your kids the popular saying “when there is leaves of three, let them be.” Have your kids take and antihistamine such as Benadryl this can ease the itching and help them get some sleep. There are also over the counter steroid creams that can help the rash fade.
Unfortunately, kids get sick from time to time when they are at camp. It is important to take note if your child has a fever, a serious cough, diarrhea or is vomiting.
“With whooping cough going around it is important to make sure that your kids are extra careful,” says Koss. “Some signs and symptoms of whooping cough are runny nose, fever, coughing attacks which are more frequent at night and in some cases vomiting.”
Teach your kids to always cover their mouth when they cough and to make sure that they are washing their hands frequently. Get your child to a doctor right away because the earlier that they are put on an antibiotic the less severe their symptoms will be.
Dayton children’s wants to make sure that everyone has a safe and fun summer. In order to do so the right precautions need to be taken. Make sure that your child only brings back good memories from summer camp and nothing else.
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