Whether you’re staying in the wilderness or at the local KOA, camping is a great opportunity to spend time with the family, get away from the stress of every day life and experience a new adventure.
And as any seasoned camper will tell you, there’s also the possibility of sunburn, bug bites or poison ivy to cast a dark shadow over the experience. Use these camping safety tips to keep your trip as safe and enjoyable as possible.
The first and most important factor in camping safety is preparation. Know the area you are camping in as well as possible before arriving. Learn about the different kinds of plants and insects you can expect to see (and might want to avoid!) on your trip.
Protecting yourself and your children from the sun’s damaging UV rays will prevent painful sunburns. It will also reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, age spots and wrinkles later in life.
Look for a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 45. This means that you are protected from the sun 45 times longer than without sunscreen. It should be reapplied after swimming, sweating or showering.
A broad brimmed hat and loose cotton clothing help to shield your skin from the sun’s rays without overheating. For extra protection, find some shade to sit and play in during the sun’s peak times, from 11am to 2pm. Remember that sun reflects off the water, so boaters should use extra caution and apply sunscreen more often.
Avoid Poisonous Plants
Most campers know the dangers of poison ivy, poison sumac and poison oak, but few actually recognize the plants. Look at pictures of these plants so you will know to avoid them and the itchy, blistering rash they cause.
A good rule of thumb is “Leaves of three, let it be”. Touching any part of the plant spreads the oil onto your skin. This oil causes the rash, which can then spread to others or to other parts of your body.
If you think you have come in contact with one of these plants, wash carefully with a mild soap to remove as much of the poisonous oil as possible.
Remember that any clothing or sleeping bags you have come in contact with have the oil on them as well. If you develop a rash, use calamine lotion or a paste made of baking soda and water to reduce itching.
Always supervise playing children to prevent the touching or eating of unknown plants. Even beautiful flowers can be dangerous. For example:
- The buttercup grows widely in fields and looks harmless enough, but can severely damage the digestive system if it is eaten.
- May apples will look tempting to children but can cause diarrhea.
- Moon seed berries look very much like wild grapes, but can be fatal.
- Mistletoe, nightshade and hemlock are all extremely dangerous and must be avoided at all costs.
Prevent bug bites by dressing properly, using bug repellant and staying inside the tent during peak bug times. Black flies and mosquitoes tend to go looking for meals at dawn and dusk. Use this time to play cards or read a book.
Before leaving the tent, spray yourself with bug spray and reapply as necessary. In heavily wooded areas or campsites near water, bugs are especially bad.
- Wear long shirts with tight collars and cuffs. Tuck your pants into your socks to keep bugs from crawling up your pant legs.
- A hat with mosquito netting is great for keeping bugs off your face and neck.
- Tuck the netting into the collar of your shirt for extra protection.
- Check over the inside of your tent with your flashlight before turning in for the night.
- Always keep the flap closed tight to prevent any stray spiders or earwigs from wandering in!
Bug bites and minor sunburns are certainly annoying, but they don’t have to spell the end of a fun camping trip. Keep Epsom salts, AfterBite lotion and baking soda in your first aid kit to treat minor bites and rashes.
Pure aloe vera gel or even vinegar also take the bite out of a sunburn. Ice from the cooler wrapped in a clean towel or T-shirt can help to soothe and numb the pain.
With a well-stocked first aid kit, minor problems are easily treated in camp. However, if you suspect your child has eaten a poisonous plant, call for medical help immediately.
A second degree sunburn that blisters must be seen by a doctor before you put anything on it. A child who scratches their bug bites could develop an infection so try to keep the bitten area and their hands as clean as possible.
Don’t let the great outdoors get the best of you. Learn as much as you can about the plant and insect life in your camping area before you go. You are ready for anything!