Welcome to MacGill School Nurse Supplies!


Summer Camp Redness

Summer camp presents countless opportunities for kids to explore, play, and adventure in the great outdoors.  The combination of fresh air, exercise, and connection to nature significantly enrich a child’s healthy growth and development.  All this fun in the sun also, unfortunately, comes with an increased risk of exposure to insect bites and stings, as well as to irritants that can cause skin rashes.  Below are some tips for the prevention, identification, and treatment of some common summer camp skin ailments.  For more summer safety tips, read our Summer Safety Blog from last month.

Heat Rash

Also known as prickly heat or miliaria, and caused by overheating, heat rash is a fine pink rash or blisters that most often occurs under clothing or in skin folds and feels irritating (prickly!) or itchy.  In most cases, heat rash does not require any sort of treatment and resolves on its own in 2-3 days.  Cool compresses can help alleviate the discomfort and OTC steroid creams can relieve itch, but it is best to avoid ointments and take measures to prevent heat rash in the first place by keeping kids cool with fans or air conditioning and dressing them in loose, breathable clothing.

Swimmer’s Itch

Tiny parasites in freshwater lakes cause this itchy, harmless rash, also known as cercarial dermatitis.  It is characterized by a burning sensation and the appearance of tiny red spots within 1-2 hours of being in the water.  After 24-48 hours, the spots typically turn into small red lumps and can cause significant itch for up to a week.  In most cases, swimmer’s itch gradually resolves on its own in 1-2 weeks but because it is an allergic reaction (to the parasite), increased exposures mean faster onset and more severe symptoms.  Interventions to relieve the discomfort and itch include cool compresses, OTC steroid creams, and for persistent itching, antihistamine medications.  Encourage kids to resist scratching as this can lead to bacterial skin infections.  Prevent swimmer’s itch by toweling off or showering immediately after swimming and avoiding swimming in areas that are shallow and marshy or where swimmer’s itch has been identified as a recent problem.

Poison Ivy and other Plants

Up to 7 out of every 10 people experience a reaction upon contact with plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, all of which release a sticky oil called urushiol.  Redness, swelling, and blisters can all occur on exposed body surfaces, as well as areas touched by the hands.  Mild reactions don’t require medical attention and can be treated with cool compresses, OTC steroid creams, calamine lotion, and oral antihistamines.  Discourage kids from scratching and teach them the helpful poison ivy/oak motto, “leaves of three, let them be!”.  If there is a known exposure, immediately wash the skin with warm, soapy water, as well as any clothes that may have come into contact with the plant.


More common in the hot, humid summer months, this bacterial skin infection causes an oozing rash and fluid-filled blisters.  In areas where the skin is broken, such as bug bites, impetigo is more likely to develop.  The infection can be spread to other body parts by scratching and can also be spread to others by direct contact or through surfaces.  If signs of impetigo are present or suspected, an evaluation by the primary care provider is necessary as it is most often treated with prescription antibiotics, although OTC antibiotic ointments may be directed for mild cases.  Affected areas should be washed with soap and water and covered loosely.  Kids can return to school or camp 24 hours after starting antibiotic treatment and with all sores covered.  If one or more children in a group have been infected, the local health department should be notified.

Bug Bites/Stings

Whether it's mosquitos, biting black flies, bees and wasps, spiders, or ticks, bug bites or stings can wreak havoc on summer camp fun.  While most bites and stings are harmless, some can spread diseases like Lyme Disease, Zika Virus, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.  In other cases, anaphylaxis can occur, causing potentially life life-threatening symptoms.   For children with known allergies to insect bites or stings, emergency action plans should be in place for camp nurses or counselors, and epinephrine auto-injectors should be carried at all times.  In instances of less severe bites or stings, clean the area well, treat swelling with cold compresses,  itch with OTC steroid cream, and any discomfort with OTC pain medication or a topical anesthetic, as appropriately directed.  Most of the redness, swelling, and itch should resolve in several days. Stingers can be removed by gently scraping them with a credit card or fingernail.  If a tick is identified, click here for more information on how to safely remove a tick.  To prevent insect bites and stings, check out these helpful tips from the CDC.

Kids should return from summer camp excited about new adventures and friends, not full of itchy skin and irritating bites.  Through preventative measures and a little preparation to appropriately identify and treat common summer camp skin rashes and bites, summer camp can be filled with nothing but happy kids and the best of memories.

Post your comment