The Good, the Bad and the Catchy

By: Nancy Garran, BS, RN

The Good, the Bad and the Catchy:  Helping to Prevent the Spread of Communicable Diseases at Camp

Camp is just around the corner and we are planning for “Our Best Summer Ever”!  With that in mind, here are a few guidelines to consider regarding communicable diseases at camp and what we can all do to help prevent the spread of infections.

Each summer, we are challenged with combating illnesses caused by viruses, colds or bacteria that impact our camp community through contact with contaminated surfaces, insect bites, or through the air.  Everyone, as part of the camp community, needs to be doing their part to help minimize the emergence of communicable diseases at camp.  No single strategy will be 100% effective, but the campers and staff will have stronger protection when more prevention strategies are in place.


  • Prevention Education starts at home by encouraging healthy prevention skills.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
    • Stay home when you are sick
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow/arm, or with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
    • Wash hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Fit for Camp – Campers and staff are expected to arrive healthy, well rested, nourished, hydrated and as resilient as possible. Anyone who is unwell should not report to camp if they have a fever or any other symptoms of communicable diseases such as cough, cold symptoms, skin rashes, etc.
  • Communicable and Contagious Disease Policy – Review camp policies regarding communicable diseases in handbooks. Any person with a communicable disease will be sent home and must be evaluated by their family physician.  To apply for admittance to camp, a written authorization from the person’s physician stating the patient is non-communicable/contagious is necessary.  The camp nurse, camp physician and camp director will then determine whether the individual’s admittance is appropriate for the camp community”.

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  • Provide health history, immunization records and a current (within 18 months) physical exam. Providing information about recent trips, travel, keeping in mind if there are current outbreaks or incidences of illnesses in that country or area visited.
  • Camp Reserves the Right to determine if an individual is able to meet the physical and emotional rigors of camp life.

Opening Day

  • Arrive “fit for camp” with all current medical records on file at camp.
  • Health Screening Procedures at camp establishes each individual’s health status upon arrival and includes:   Observable evidence of communicable disease, injury, illness, and/or active health issues; b. Verification and updates to the individual’s health history form; c. Confirmation of medication(s) to be given during camp session, including as-needed or rescue medications; d. Verification of food intolerances, aversions, and special diets as well as other allergies (e.g., to bees, molds, dust).
  • Health Assessment – If a camper is found to be unwell or sick, campers will be sent home with parents, or admitted to the health center if parents are not present, until they are well enough to return.  Campers can return to camp with a physician’s note, with director and health center permission, and when fever free, without medications, for over 24 hours, and have no vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
  • Prevention at Camp
  • Continue preventative education as described above, such as promoting cough and sneeze etiquette, discouraging campers from touching their faces, encouraging good hand hygiene, as well as encouraging “social distancing” for wellness. (Things like refraining from hugging, and shaking hands, and trying to stay a reasonable space away from other individuals, while still sharing plenty “How do’s?”).
  • Cleanliness – Keeping cabin areas clean and learning proper procedures for cabin chores including sweeping, bed making, bathroom cleaning, etc.
  • Do Not Share Personal Items – Personal items – towels, dirty clothes, hairbrushes, pillows, bedding, toiletries, hats, make-up, razors, drinks, water bottles etc. – should not be shared. Prevent the re-use of dirty towels.  Water bottles washed regularly.  Linens and laundry washed regularly.
  • Refer to Health Center any campers or staff with any signs or symptoms of communicable diseases or patterns of illnesses such as stomach aches, rashes, etc. Evening Health Checks for overnight campers and reporting any health concerns to the health center.
  • Disinfecting shared community areas and living spaces as well as extra laundry and bed linen washing as necessary.

Post Camp

  • Upon returning home, report any health concerns identified to camp as soon as possible.

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