Private: Avoiding a Lousy Summer Camp Experience

The last weeks of school are here, and many parents are beginning to create the checklists that will enable them to send their kids to camp with everything they need to create lasting memories of a healthy, happy summer of activities and friendship… and head lice.

Oops, did I say that out loud?

I guess I did. But only because I care about you.

The truth is that summer camps are a perfect place for head lice to achieve their evolutionary purpose: making more head lice so the species can continue to thrive. When I went to camp, which I did EVERY summer (possibly because my parents found this foolproof annual break from parenting me to be extremely worthwhile), the friendships I forged were closer in a lot of ways than the ones I had at home—and the keyword here is “closer.” We lived in close contact at camp—a lot of lying around on each others bunk beds, head-to-head on the same pillow as we giggled, wrote letters home (yes, with paper and envelopes), played games, and engaged in the highly head-lice-relevant activity of mutual hair styling (which usually meant, “let’s see how many bows and clips and bands we can put on each others heads to make the most ridiculous-looking head we can!”). You’re envisioning the nightmare, aren’t you?

istock11147386-waterfront-open1-150x150 What can parents do to prevent the gift-that-keeps-on-giving? Two things. First, add a head lice screening to your camp departure checklist. Screen your child before s/he boards the bus or gets in the car for the trip to camp. If you aren’t confident in your ability to do it, find a nurse or a professional service (full disclosure: Lice Happens does camp screenings) that will screen your child. Second, ask your camp director what they’re doing to make sure kids are screened upon arrival. Some camps have screening procedures set up, with qualified camp nurses or professional services doing the screening, but many still have high hopes that it just won’t happen at their camps, so they wait until there’s a problem affecting more than one camper before taking action. And sometimes that action includes sending children home for treatment.

If your camp falls into the latter camp, gently suggest that they might reconsider that tactic and put an arrival screening procedure in place. (More disclosure: Lice Happens sells inexpensive screening kits for camp nurses). It could save your child, and many others, from a summer camp memory they’d rather forget. Summer camps who don’t screen are risking a lousy summer, and nobody wants to pony up for that.