What to do if you get sick when camping - 6 tips

6 tips on what to do when camping and you get sick or ill

Being sick at anytime isn't fun but when you are camping, then it just seems so much worse. 

You don't have your comfortable bed, and you don't have your bathroom right next to you (unless of course you are in a caravan with that feature).  The days and nights (especially) can seem very long when you or someone you know is unwell.  I don't think you appreciate your health until you are unwell and away from home.

So what do you do? 

Firstly, it's going to depend on where you are camping.  If you are camping in big resort-like campground in a big town/city, you will have many more options than when you are off the beaten track.

This story is more for those of you who are a little remote where you are camping and come down with the typical sort of illness such as gastrointestinal problems or cold/flu like symptoms.

Here are our tips based on personal experiences.

1.  Go home

If the illness is going to affect the entire trip, pack up and go if this is an option such as weekend break.  There is no point in hanging around hoping for a miracle recovery when you only have a short time to be camping. 

Depending on the illness, being in close quarters with the sickly one, could also mean that its contagious.  eg.  gastro is notorious for spreading quickly through families. 

Your camping trip is now going to be cut short, but really, with someone who is unwell (and I am not talking about a common cold), but someone who is really poorly, the best place for them would to be home and close to a doctor, if one is required.

If you have any doubt over what is actually wrong with a person or symptoms increase, you should leave and seek medical attention.  

2.   Have a well stocked first aid kit

6 tips on camping when sick

Always bring along a first aid kit.  That should be part of your camping trip anyway. 
(Don't have one?  Buy one here)

Apart from the usuals in a first aid kit (bandages, scissors etc), we take over-the-counter medications with us.  And with kids, this is definitely something you should look at closely.   

  • Always use these medications as directed and if in any doubt how they could conflict with existing medications, ask in advance of any trip away!!

  • Keep all medicines in cool and dry place and away from children.

Extra items you should want included:

  • Pain relief   eg. Panadol/Nurofen  etc.  If there is a fever, you will need to control it and these would be of help.  
  • Child appropriate medication.   If your child can't take tablets, bring along pain relief in syrup form.
  • Hayfever medication.  Great for allergies which can make you feel totally miserable. 
  • Electrolyte sachets/tablets.   When diarrhoea starts, your fluid intake is very important. Add to water to keep nutrients in system and your hydration up.
  • Anti-diarrhoea medication.  This is handy to have because if you can't get to the toilet easily, this can slow down your toilet visits.  It's not going to treat the cause of your diarrhoea but just ease some of your discomfort.  I have personally had to rely on this to make a camping trip bearable.  
  • Thermometer (optional but handy)

3.    Rest up

what to do when sick and camping

So you have decided not to go home?  Then rest up.   Don't push yourself to do activities or anything that could exacerbate your illness.

It might mean lying in tent/camper/hammock for the day, sleeping when your body needs it.  Relax and get comfortable. 

4   Keep your fluids up

6 tips for camping when sick

No matter what the illness, your fluid intake should be kept up.  

With gastro related illnesses, this is vitally important.  With fevers, sipping cool drinks can help.  When ill, you don't want to make yourself worse due to dehydration.   Sometimes it can be really hard to drink fluid (and I don't mean alcohol) when ill, but dehydration can sneak up on you, and children are especially vulnerable.

Know the symptoms of dehydration and monitor yourself or the other sick camper closely.   

5.     Practice Good Hygiene

what to do if you get sick when camping

If you are staying at the campsite with your sick camper, then practice good hygiene.   Have your hand sanitiser close by where everyone can use it regularly.

No hand sanitiser - then wash hands with soap thoroughly and regularly.

Cough and sneeze into a tissue which you can dispose of. 

6.  Monitor the ill person

If you are the unwell person - get someone to check on you regularly.
If you are caring for the unwell person - monitor them regularly.

You want to make sure there is no deterioration in condition eg. increased fever, change in symptoms, dehydration, pain etc.   

Based on this monitoring, you may have to go back to Point 1 - which is to leave your campsite and seek medical attention.  

The final word

As a camper, I have been ill when camping as have my children.  It's not fun but thankfully, nothing serious.   We have managed the illnesses at the campsite, but sometimes packed up a bit earlier than we had planned. 

  • With illness, sometimes you may have to use your common sense and your instinct.  If something doesn't feel right, then trust your instinct and do something about it like leaving the campsite.     If you are a parent, you know your child better than anyone else, and know when the illness is something mild and manageable (like a cold), but be alert for changes.

Illness when camping doesn't have to mean the end of your camping trip, but being prepared and aware of illnesses, is a good idea for every camper.

camping when you are sick tips