Being sick is no fun, but when you go on a camping trip it just seems so much worse. A cold or infection can happen at any time. Whether you are at home or out in the wild with your tent, rooftop tent, or RV.
You don’t have a comfortable bed, and you don’t have your bathroom right next to you (unless, of course, you’re in a caravan with those facilities). The days and nights can seem very long (especially) when you or someone you know is unwell. I think you only appreciate your health when you are unwell and away from home.
So what should you do if you get sick during the camping trip?
First of all, it depends on where you are camping. Camping in a large, resort-like campground in a/next to a big city gives you many more options than camping off the beaten track.
Here are some good tips for those of you who are a bit remote where you are camping and who are struggling with the typical type of illness such as gastrointestinal problems or flu-like symptoms.
When you go camping you should always be prepared for the possibility that you or a member of your group will get sick. Therefore, you should always have the most important medication with you!
If you go camping alone and drive to remote places where you are alone and cannot quickly get back to your vehicle or to the next town, you should always prepare yourself intensively for such cases.
Always think of the most important medication and also of the possibility to make an emergency call (mobile phone + power bank, radio, signal gun, etc.).
For longer hikes in remote places, you should always have an emergency shelter and emergency sleeping bag with you so that you can lie down and rest in emergency situations.
Here are our tips based on personal experience.
Drive back home
If the illness will affect the entire trip, pack up and leave if that’s an option such as weekend holidays. There’s no use hanging around here hoping for a miraculous recovery if you’re short on camping time.
Depending on the illness, being close to the sick person can also mean that the illness is contagious, e.g. sleeping in the same tent can quickly infect the whole family or group.
Her camping stay will now be cut short, but really, with someone who isn’t feeling well (and I’m not talking about a cold) but someone who is really down, the best place for her would be at home and close to one physician if one is required.
If you have any doubts about what is actually wrong with a person or if symptoms are increasing, you should go and see a doctor.
Have a good first-aid kit with you
Always bring a first aid kit with you. That should be part of your camping gear anyway.
Apart from the items usually found in a first-aid kit (bandages, scissors, etc.), we take the medication with us. And with children, you should definitely take a close look at this.
- Always use these medications as directed, and if you are in doubt as to how they may conflict with existing medications, ask before each trip!
- Keep all medications in a cool, dry place and out of the reach of children.
Additional items to bring with you:
- Pain relief e.g. Painkillers etc. If you have a fever you need to control it and this would be helpful.
- Child-friendly medicines. If your child cannot take pills, bring painkillers in syrup form.
- Medication for hay fever. Great for allergies that can make you feel downright miserable.
- Electrolyte bags/tablets. When diarrhea starts, your fluid intake is very important. Add them to the water to keep the nutrients in the system and your hydration levels up.
- Anti-diarrheal medication. This is handy because not being able to get to the toilet easily can slow down your bathroom visits. It will not treat the cause of your diarrhea, it will only relieve some of your symptoms. I personally have had to rely on this to make a camping trip bearable.
- Clinical thermometer
So you’ve decided not to go home? Then rest. Don’t push yourself into activities or other things that could make your illness worse.
It could mean lying in the tent/caravan/hammock all day and sleeping when your body needs it. Relax and make yourself comfortable.
Drink enough water
Regardless of the condition, your fluid intake should be maintained.
In the case of gastrointestinal diseases, this is of crucial importance. If you have a fever, drinking cool drinks can help. When you’re sick, you don’t want to make yourself worse with dehydration. Drinking fluids (and I don’t mean alcohol) when you’re sick can sometimes be very difficult, but dehydration can creep up and children are particularly vulnerable.
Find out about the symptoms of dehydration and keep a close eye on yourself or the other sick camper.
Read more about dehydration symptoms and treatment and prevention
Pay attention to hygiene
If you stay sick at the campsite, you should practice good hygiene. Keep your hand sanitizer close by so that everyone can use it regularly.
No hand sanitizer – wash your hands thoroughly and regularly with soap for at least 30 seconds.
Cough and sneeze into a disposable tissue.
Keep an eye on sick people
If you feel unwell – have someone check on you regularly. If you are caring for a sick person – monitor them regularly.
You want to make sure your condition isn’t getting worse, e.g. increased fever, changing symptoms, dehydration, pain, etc.
Based on this monitoring, you may need to return to point 1 – leaving the campsite and seeking medical attention.
If it gets worse, you should take the sick person to a doctor or hospital. In emergencies, you can also use your phone to call for help.
As a camper, I got sick while camping, as did my kids. It’s not fun, but luckily it’s nothing serious. We managed to get a handle on the illnesses at the campsite, but sometimes we packed a little earlier than we had planned.
When you’re sick, sometimes you have to use your common sense and instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and do something about it, such as leaving the campsite. If you’re a parent, you know your child better than anyone and you know when the illness is something mild and manageable (like a cold), but watch out for changes.
Being sick while camping doesn’t have to mean the end of your camping trip, but preparing for and being aware of sickness is a good idea for any camper.
However, if you are alone in the wild and you feel sick, it is very important that you rest and drink plenty of fluids. If you can, send an emergency call using your cell phone or radio.
If you are alone, you should never hesitate to call for help as you will quickly lose energy and will not be able to get back to your vehicle.
Important: I am NOT a doctor and cannot give you any medical advice here! Before leaving, please speak to a doctor who can give you detailed advice on this topic! I am not responsible for any statements made here!
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