“Sunwise” at Camp

One of the biggest challenges of summer camp is also one of its greatest aspects, spending lots of time in the sunny outdoors.  Indeed, time in the sun is an important aspect of maintaining good health.  The sun is a source of vitamin D, which has been linked to happiness.  However, over-exposure to the sun’s rays can be harmful, as nearly everyone knows.  So taking appropriate measures to reduce risks is essential.

Summer camp professionals are extremely aware that proper sun care goes beyond the frequent application of sunscreen.  Many of them are parents themselves whose first priority is the safety of their campers, and they work very hard to incorporate sun-care tips, such as those offered by Sunwise, an organization established by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000 to help those who work with children, into their daily routines.

Staff and campers are instructed to apply sunscreen frequently.  Almost all camps either supply sunscreen or require campers to bring it with them and encourage re-application between activities throughout the day.  Many camps place large containers of sunscreen throughout campus, so that it can be easily accessed and reapplied throughout the day.  The staff is required to insure that both themselves and their campers regularly use sunscreen.

Camps take measure to insure that children wear proper clothing.  Campers receive proper dress instructions daily.  Counselors supervise to make sure each child dresses appropriately for the day’s weather and activities.  Daily weather-appropriate instructions such as reminders about sunscreen application and instructions to drink plenty of water are also typically given during a camp’s morning announcements.

Camp programs naturally incorporate a mix of outdoor and indoor activities in order to balance the amount of time one spends in the sun with time in the shade.  While summer camp is about reconnecting with nature and a natural environment, campers also spend ample amount of time indoors so as not to be overexposed or at risk.

Extra precautionary measures are also taken when necessary.  With an increasing emphasis on helping campers develop lifelong healthy habits, camps are increasingly choosing to train their staffs in proper suncare.

Vitamin D intake is optimized through diet.  Camp menus are carefully planned to optimize nutritional value for campers.  Health and fitness have risen to the forefront of the camping industry in recent years.  Naturally rich in vitamin D foods such as milk, eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal daily are typically available daily at breakfast.  Other foods high in Vitamin D, such as tuna and mushrooms, are also offered on lunch and dinner salad bars.

Teaching children and the people who take care of them proper measures for protecting oneself against overexposure to the sun is a critical element in the promotion of good health that many camps now embrace.  It not only helps protect children at camp but could help them for life.  A study by the American Camp Association established that habits formed at summer camp are continued by more than 60% of campers once they return home.

For more information about proper suncare, you can visit the Sunwise website at www.epa.gov/sunwise/index.html.

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