Summer camp means virtually everyone – from your counselors to your campers – is spending a lot of time outside under the golden summer sun. While there’s nothing quite like sunny summertime days, sun safety is often overlooked. As we all know, emergencies of one form or another can – and d0 – happen at camp. And while it’s important to always be prepared with the basics like first aid and what to do in case of an allergic reaction, sun and UV safety should also be near the top of the list. The last thing you need in the midst of summertime madness is your camp parents calling to ask why their children got second-degree sunburns!

To that end, today’s post covers the important topic of sun and UV safety. Campers will inevitably spend more time than they usually do outside, and these tips will help you ensure sun-safety for each and every one of your campers.

Do Research

If you’re new to your camp, do research on the historical daily and seasonal weather patterns over the course of your sessions. And i you’re an old hand, you’ll know whether it clouds up every afternoon in June, or otherwise when to plan activities outdoors or avoid the searing afternoon heat. Being proactive about UV and heat index is a great first step to take it when it comes to sun safety. The heat index is an explanation of how hot it feels outside, relative to temperature and humidity. Being aware of heat index is an important part of sun safety because although the temperature may look low, it can end up feeling very hot outside. When the body is hot, it sweats more to cool itself down. So, the more you sweat, the more hydrated you need to keep yourself to make up for the loss of water in the body. Therefore, extra precaution like increased water intake and less strenuous activities should be prioritized for your campers if the heat index is high.

At its highest level, a UV index of 11+ can cause sunburn in as quickly as ten minutes, in this situation it’s important to seek shade from the sun as much as possible. However, in even a more common and moderate UV index of 3-5, sunburn can happen in 30-45 minutes if your skin isn’t protected from the sun. In this case, it’s important that from 10 AM to 4 PM, when the sun is the strongest, to apply sunscreen every two hours and follow the other UV safety tips below.

Yes, every two hours. Make sunscreen available, and reminders to put it on a regular part of your counselors’ vocabulary.

Remember that even if it’s cloudy outside or the sun doesn’t feel hot, it’s still possible to get sunburnt. If you’re near a body of water, the air can feel cool while the sun is still burning hot and reflecting off of the water. The deceivingly cool air puts you in extra danger of sunburns and the sun’s reflection can damage your eyes if you don’t take precaution.

No matter the weather you are dealing with during your weeks ahead at camp, practice sun safety as usual with your campers. You are teaching them vital life lessons, like taking the weather report seriously and knowing that although the sun is fun, it can also be dangerous. Wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and staying in the shade can help them avoid the uncomfortable and serious harm the sun may cause.

Encourage sunscreen

To avoid getting sunburnt, be sure your campers are using sunscreen as much as possible. As an employee, it’s important that you encourage everyone to apply sunscreen properly and when necessary. Sunscreen needs to be applied 20-30 minutes before heading out into the sun so it can soak into the skin and work properly. Early in the morning before the busy day begins, take time to do a thorough application process with everyone. This includes applying it everywhere that skin may be exposed to the sun like ears, scalp, and the back of the neck. Additionally, pay attention to the SPF of your sunscreen to determine how often reapplication is needed. However, with how busy days at camp get, try to get in a reapplication at least every two hours. Again, it’s your job as a camp employee to encourage sunscreen application for your campers to ensure their safety from the sun. 

Use Sunglasses

If your campers have come prepared with sunglasses, then encourage them to wear them as often as possible. It can be difficult for kids to wear them when playing active sports, however, when sailing, hiking, or relaxing in the sun, sunglasses should be worn for extra protection. Because of their growing bodies, children are at a higher risk of eye damage so it’s important to keep their eyes protected from the sun with sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays. Over 12% of parents actually don’t require their kids to wear sunglasses outdoors, probably because of the difficulty kids have keeping them on or the discomfort and annoyance they may cause. However, as their advocate and caregiver away from home while kids are at camp, you should take pride in the responsibility to keep them healthy and to encourage them to use their sunglasses whenever possible. 

Utilize Clothing

Clothing can be great for UV protection but can be bad when it comes to protection from heat. Tight-knit clothes are a great barrier from the sun’s harmful rays, so wearing long pants and shirts as protection from a potential sunburn is a smart idea during cooler days when you are still at risk of sunburn. Tight-knit clothes may sound like an awful idea in the midst of summer, but sports performance clothes are actually great because they are tightly knit so they can block the UV rays, plus they wick away sweat. 

If the heat index is very high then stay away from long clothing to keep the body’s temperature down. In this case, it’s okay to wear comfortable and cooling shorts and t-shirts but be sure to stay on top of your sunscreen application schedule for UV protection. Another way to stay cool is to do water activities, drink more water than usual, and do low-impact exercises to keep sweating and exertion at a minimum. 

Find Shade

When the heat or UV index is high, it’s key to know where you can find shady, cool spots at camp. Staying in the shade is the best protection from UV rays but can be hard when you have activities planned all day long. If the sun is particularly hot one day, simply schedule times during the day to take a water break under a tree, sit indoors and do a craft, and hike or play a game in a shadier area of your campsite. If it’s hard to find shade at your camp, then encourage the use of hats, clothes, or even towels to cover yourselves in the sun. Hats are great because they provide shade for the face, which is an area of the body that is very susceptible to burns. 

Make Sure Campers are Prepared

Even if it’s not your job to send out packing lists for campers, try to be an active part of the conversation when it comes to safety preparedness for future campers with your employer. Campers and their families should know to come prepared with sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and the best clothing to stay safe from the sun. With the research you’ve done on sun safety, you can be an advocate for the campers before they are in your care. Plus, this will make your job easier when it comes to encouraging sunscreen application, utilizing sunglasses, and wearing protective, comfortable clothing.

Summer camp takes up a nice portion of a child’s summer, and just like their parents, you have to be vigilant about your campers’ health and safety while they are in your care. Although it’s great to be prepared for serious emergencies that may happen, it’s just as important to remember more common health hazards. Take it upon yourself to advocate for your current and future campers by keeping them safe from the summer sun!

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