Summer Camps and Immunizations

campfireThe Summer Solstice on June 21 marks the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, but if you live in the south (like me), you know that summer has been in full swing for weeks now. Kids are out of school, families are flocking to swimming pools, and oh yeah – it’s really hot outside. For many families, summer also means it’s time to gear up for camp. Each camp has their own specifications for packing, but in addition to sleeping bags, bug spray and sunscreen, making sure your child is up to date on their vaccinations is a key part of your preparations for summer camp. It’s one of the easiest ways to keep your camper (and all the kids around them) healthy while they’re away.

Camps these days offer more activities than you could imagine. There’s water sports, indoor games, outdoor games, ropes courses… the list goes on and on. It’s a kid’s dream. But, no matter what your child is into, one thing is for sure at camp– all those kids in close proximity means infections could spread quickly.

Vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and pertussis still occur in many parts of the world – and now are even starting to make a comeback in North America, too. There have been more than 500 cases of measles reported so far this year in 20 states in the US – more than any other year since the disease was declared officially eliminated from the country in 2000 – and the majority of those infected had not been vaccinated.

Measles Cases the US from 1950-2001. Source: CDC.gov

Measles Cases the US from 1950-2001. Source: CDC.gov


Most Americans are fully vaccinated against the measles. But when an infected individual enters a community where pockets of people are not vaccinated, it can spread like wildfire. That’s because measles is one of the most infectious diseases known to mankind. In fact, the virus can live in the air or on surfaces for up to two hours after a contagious individual has left the room.

Thankfully, we have a highly effective vaccine to prevent the measles, but not everyone is eligible to get vaccinated because of age or medical conditions. And there are some individuals (about 1 percent) who are just simply unable to develop sufficient protection even after getting the vaccine. That is why it is so important that each camper (and their families!) be fully up to date with their vaccinations. The more people who are immune, the less likely it is that the disease will be able to circulate.

So ask your child’s pediatrician which vaccinations are recommended for you and your family. The following vaccinations (or boosters) may be recommended depending on your child’s medical history, camp destination, and age. Remember to get the vaccinations in advance, so your child’s body has time to build up immunity.

Tetanus
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Meningitis
Hepatitis A
Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Varicella (chickenpox)

If your child is off to camp this summer, I hope they have a wonderful time! Rest assured that you are doing your part to keep them protected by keeping their vaccinations current. For more information about specific vaccines and the diseases they prevent, visit the Resources page of Immunizeusa.org. Additionally, if someone in your family will be traveling abroad this summer, be sure to read about the travel vaccines they may need to stay protected.

Happy summer to you!

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