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Summer Camp Safety and Avoiding Personal Injury

Now that summer is here, many parents and their children are looking forward to the prospect of summer camp. While summer camp is historically viewed as a rite of passage for children, parents view it as both a learning opportunity for children and a productive means of childcare.

Although summer camps are a fantastic way for kids to learn important lessons and develop life skills, personal injuries can happen at summer camp. The following is an overview of some of the most common summer camp accidents and injuries, as well as a checklist for summer camp safety.

The Most Common Summer Camp Injuries

Kids will be kids – they are curious, rowdy, and love to explore. This natural inquisitiveness, coupled with the inability of children to fully appreciate risk, can sometimes lead to injuries. Moreover, classic summer camp activities like camping, hiking, and swimming may increase the risk of sustaining an injury. Some of the most common summer camp injuries include:

  • Falls are one of the most common types of accident, and may result in injuries ranging from minor scrapes and bruises to broken bones and traumatic brain injuries. A child may fall out of a tree, fall while hiking on a trail, fall out of their bunk bed, or simply trip while running or walking.
  • A cut or laceration may be minor, but untreated it may lead to bleeding, pain, and even infection. A cut may occur due to a fall, or as a result of contact with a sharp object. For example, knives and axes are important tools while in the wilderness, but they can also cause significant injury when improperly handled or stored.
  • Burns often require emergency medical treatment and can be extremely painful. In the worst cases, burns can result in infection or leave permanent scarring and disfigurement. Burn injuries are most common around the campfire, but a child at summer camp may also get burned when handling matches or hot kitchen equipment.
  • Bites and rashes. The common risks presented by Mother Nature are always present. Poison ivy, snakes, spiders, and bees are present in the woods of most summer camp locations. While actions can certainly be taken to reduce the risk of exposure to a poisonous plant or creature, it is important to have a plan in place in the event a camper is affected.
  • Dehydration and heat exhaustion. If children are out in the sun for too long or without enough water, they may suffer from dehydration and/or heat exhaustion. While these conditions rarely result in death, they can be serious and are easily avoided with common sense measures. If heat exhaustion does occur, Inpulse CPR recommends drinking cool water, resting in the shade, and removing unnecessary clothing.
  • One of the most tragic accidents is drowning. While these accidents are not common at summer camps, they do happen. Talk to your child about swimming safety before they go.

Checklist for Summer Camp Safety

One of the best ways for a child at summer camp to avoid preventable injuries is for their parent to make a summer camp safety checklist. Some things to consider before sending your child off to camp, or when talking to camp counselors, include:

  • Emergency contact information and plans. Hopefully, your child will not be injured and emergency contact information will be unnecessary. As a precaution, make sure you provide the staff with your contact numbers, your child’s health information (including any allergies and medications) and doctor’s name, and your address. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the camp how they handle emergency health or accident situations.
  • Allergies and medications. If your child has any allergies or takes any medications, make sure that every adult at the camp is aware of these. In addition to telling camp counselors, consider placing a notecard inside of your child’s clothes that informs responders of allergies or medication needs that they can reference in the event of a an accident. This is also a good time to review your child’s health history with camp counselors.
  • Safety certifications. Talk to the summer camp administrators about what types of safety certifications their counselors hold. Have they been trained in CPR? WebMD recommends asking if there are any certified nurses or physicians on site, too.
  • Talk with your child about camp safety. You should also set aside some time to talk to your child about camp safety. This might include addressing things such as:
    • Listening to camp counselors and following instructions
    • Avoiding hiking injuries
    • Reporting dangerous behavior and not participating in it.
    • Learning how to swim and following all water safety instructions
    • Handling matches, sharp objects, and other tools in a safe manner and in the presence of an adult
    • Reacting properly when an accident does happen

While some summer camp accidents may seem inevitable, most are preventable.

Liability Waivers at Summer Camps

Before you check your child into a summer camp, you may be asked to sign a liability waiver. This type of document purports to release a summer camp program of any liability in the event that your child is injured. Before you sign this type of document, be sure that you fully understand it. If you sign it and your child is injured, you may be barred from taking legal action against the summer camp to recover damages.

What to Do after a Summer Camp Injury

We hope your child is never injured while at summer camp. If they are, you may have a claim for damages, even if you signed a waiver. To explore your recovery options and learn more about how you can help to secure a positive future for your child, contact the experienced North Carolina personal injury attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., today.

About the Author

Robert C. Younce, JR
Chip is an attorney at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks and concentrates his law practice in personal injury and workers’ compensation law. He has tried over 100 workers’ comp cases to Opinion and Award and about a dozen personal injury jury trials to verdict. He has been board-certified by the North Carolina State Bar as a specialist in workers’ compensation law since 2001.

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