Going camping with your family this summer? Before you head out into the “wilderness” check out these camping basics to keep your family safe – and happy – during your camping trip.
Proper Clothing – To protect against sudden temperature and weather changes, wear multi-layered clothing made of polyester, polypropylene, and wool. Layers of clothing will allow you to reduce or increase clothing as needed. To protect against rain and wind, bring lightweight waterproof jackets and pants. Don’t forget comfortable hiking shoes to prevent blistering. Caps or hats will help guard against the sun and protect against insects.
Campsite Set-Up – Scout the area before setting up a tent. In wilderness areas, look for signs of animal and insect use; for example, yellow jacket wasps build their nests in the ground. If berries are plentiful at a site, bears may forage for food there. Look for broken glass, discarded needles, and other hazardous trash around your campsite. To build a firepit, look for a clearing and previous firepits. During fire-hazard periods and dry seasons, use portable stoves rather than campfires.
Plants and Insects – Common plants to be wary of are poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Show your kids pictures of these plants before your trip, and if in doubt, avoid touching any unknown plants. Dress your kids in long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect the skin from exposure to plants that may cause allergic reactions. You can apply protective products before hiking that will act as a barrier against the oils of the plants.
Any area that comes in contact with a poisonous plant should be washed immediately with cool water. Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream (1%) may help to stop the itching that’s common with poison ivy. Antihistamines taken by mouth are effective for allergic reactions or itchy rashes — from contact with poison ivy to mosquito bites to bee and wasp stings. Don’t forget about ticks, which can carry several types of infections. Check your kids at the end of each day for ticks — examine places where ticks like to hide, like behind the ears, in the scalp, and under the arms.
Wild Animals – Teach kids that animals in the wild are strong and agile, and will defend themselves if threatened. Kids should not approach wild animals, even small ones, and should never feed them. Don’t leave kids unsupervised. Instruct them to stay calm and call loudly for help if they encounter a wild animal.
What to Pack – Besides the usual gear, bring along these essentials:
map of the area
flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs
extra clothing, including rain gear
sunglasses and sunscreen
matches in waterproof container
candle or fire starter
adequate supply of clean drinking water
appropriate insect repellents
walkie-talkie and/or cell phone
50 to 100 feet of nylon rope
Don’t forget a first aid kit, including bandages, gauze pads, a cold pack, safety pins, scissors, thermometer, topical antibiotic cream (such as Neosporin), medications for pain or fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and hydrocortisone cream, among other essentials.
Remain Calm – Should an emergency arise, the best thing to do is to remain calm. Families need to decide together on the best plan of action, examining the resources available. Before your trip, notify friends and families of your destination and time of return. If your kids have whistles and were instructed to wait in a sheltered area if they get lost, you should be able to find them more readily. If you bring a cell phone, make sure it’s charged. Always stay on the safe side when setting boundaries for family camping. The more remote your location, the more care you should take in choosing your activities.
By Michael Molina, community health educator at CHOC Children’s
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