family camping

You’ve gathered up the tents and the sleeping bags – now it’s time to head out on your camping adventure. When packing the necessities, like flashlights and marshmallows, did you remember to bring what you need to protect your skin while camping? In this article we’re going to discuss four potential camping-related skin problems, and what you need to pack to stay safe.

  1. Sun

Sunny skies and warm temperatures may be the very reason why you decided to go camping, but the sun can also ruin your camping trip in a hurry. Too much sun exposure can cause a painful burn that will spoil the event, but it can also cause skin damage and disease down the line.

When packing for your camping trip, make sure you bring enough sunscreen! Dermatologists recommend using SPF 30, which will block 97% of the UVB rays, and to block the UVA rays you want to make sure to get a sunscreen labeled broad spectrum. A few other sunscreen tips, related to camping:

  • There is no such thing as a “waterproof” sunscreen, and in 2011 the FDA banned using the term on sunscreen labels. If you are going to be swimming, make sure to reapply sunscreen as soon as you get out of the water and dry off.
  • Likewise, there is no such thing as a “sweatproof” sunscreen. If you’ll be participating in physical activities that will make you sweat, make sure to reapply your sunscreen often.
  • The sun’s harmful rays can find you even if it’s cloudy or if you’re in the shade, so apply sunscreen no matter what.
  1. Bugs

Another factor waiting to spoil your camping trip are those pesky little bugs that annoy and bite, including mosquitoes, gnats, biting flies, chiggers and ticks. To fight off an attack, make sure you pack plenty of insect repellent. Here are some camping-related tips:

  • The CDC recommends putting on insect repellent AFTER you put on your sunscreen.
  • You should cover all exposed skin and reapply as needed, but avoid spraying directly on the face and don’t put it on under clothes.
  • You can also protect yourself with long sleeved clothes and long pants.
  • Avoid puddles and standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs.
  1. Poisonous Plants

Skin irritations from poisonous plants can also put a damper on your camping experience. The three most common include poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.

  • Before going on a camping trip, make sure that you know what kind of poisonous plants may be in the area, and how to identify each so you can avoid contact.
  • Clothing can also create a barrier, so if you’ll be hiking it’s a good idea to wear long sleeves and pants.
  • If you do come in contact with one of these plants, you may experience a rash, redness, swelling, bumps or blisters. Treat by washing the infected area with soap and water, applying a cold compress to blisters, and treating with a topical redness and itching cream such as hydrocortisone.
  • In severe cases, seek medical attention immediately.
  1. Minor Wounds

A final camping skin care concern is minor wounds – those cuts, scrapes and burns you occasionally encounter when enjoying camping activities like hiking, biking, and making campfires. Some tips to deal with these issues:

  • If you are bleeding, you can stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a clean towel. After this you should clean the wound with clean water or alcohol, then disinfect by applying an antibiotic ointment.
  • If you experience a minor burn, soak the burn in cool water, then apply aloe vera gel to soothe the skin and/or antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.
  • Most minor wounds can be treated with the supplies you find in a basic first aid kit, but for anything more serious, seek immediate medical attention.

When you go camping, you’re exposing your skin to the elements and that might mean having to deal with sun, bugs, poisonous plants and minor wounds. Knowing how to deal with these common camping skin problems will help you pack the right supplies and protect your skin while enjoying the wilderness.