Four children of various races and ages in a "jumping for joy" pose. Each one is against a different color backgdrop.

Summer camp is a time for adventure. New friendships. And unforgettable experiences. But for children with eczema, attending a summer camp can be daunting. They need special skin care, modified activities and strategies to avoid triggers.

Eczema camps are now an option for families. They offer a tailored experience for children with eczema and other skin diseases. They strive to ensure every child can enjoy the magic of summer while successfully managing their skin condition.

What is Eczema Camp?

Eczema camps are more than just summer camps for children and teens with atopic dermatitis. Campers come together to form a community. They connect with others their age who live with similar skin conditions.

Eczema camps offer experiences many children might not otherwise get due to their skin disease. They provide all the fun of traditional summer camps. There’s fishing, swimming, canoeing, archery, hiking on nature trails, horseback riding, and more. One camp even hosts a “prom.”

In addition, the camps have measures to ensure the safety and comfort of children with eczema. Activities at eczema camps are carefully planned to be skin-safe.

Eczema camps are staffed with doctors, nurses, and counselors who know how to manage skin conditions. Campers can learn about caring for their skin in a supportive, non-medical environment.

Benefits of Eczema Camp

Many campers arrive at eczema camp feeling shy and uncertain. They leave feeling more confident in themselves. Beyond building self-esteem, the benefits of eczema camps include:

  • Building Bonds. Campers connect with others who truly understand what they are going through. They form friendships and support networks that can last a lifetime.
  • Improved Skin Care. With the guidance of health professionals, campers learn better skincare practices. Kids witness others their age managing a skin condition. This helps normalize consistent and safe skincare.
  • Increased Confidence. Taking part in activities without the fear of looking different boosts self-esteem.
  • Judgment-Free Zone. Campers can try new activities or skip activities without judgment. They are in a supportive environment with peers who “get it.”

A doctor inspects the foot of a child with eczema to teach them how to take care of their condition.

Medical Support and Activities at Eczema Camp

Parents and guardians can feel comfortable sending their children to an eczema camp. Doctors and nurses are present to help campers follow their treatment regimen – including medications. They can also work with them on ways to avoid itching and scratching. Many counselors have skin conditions themselves, so they can offer firsthand support and advice.

Activities are planned around the campers’ needs, even for those with severe eczema. There are indoor options to avoid sun exposure. Outdoor fun is often in controlled environments to minimize exposures to skin irritants.

Eczema Camps 2024

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) runs a series of week-long eczema camps at various locations around the country each summer. In mid-June, the nonprofit Children’s Skin Disease Foundation (CSDF) hosts Camp Wonder® for children with any skin disease including eczema.

Talk with your physician or local health department to find out if there’s an eczema camp in your area. You can also contact campgrounds in your area to find out if they are willing to host an eczema camp.

Camp Discovery

Camp Discovery hosted by AAD is open to children ages 8 to 16 with chronic skin conditions including eczema. The camp includes outdoor fun in a supportive environment. It is designed to meet the medical needs of children and teens with chronic skin conditions. Many of the camp counselors have chronic skin conditions as well.

Camp Discovery is provided at no cost to families (including airfare). Children must be referred by a dermatologist to attend. Here are the 2024 camps:

  • Crosslake, Minnesota: July 1-6 (ages 13-16)
  • Crosslake, Minnesota: July 8-13 (ages 8-13)
  • Mt. Washington, Massachusetts: July 28-August 2 (ages 8-16)
  • Burton, Texas: August 4-9 (ages 8-16)
  • Millville, Pennsylvania: August 10-16 (ages 8-16)
  • Mountain Center, California: August 11–16 (ages 8-12)

Camp Wonder®

Camp Wonder hosted by CSDF is also open to children with any chronic skin disease including eczema. Campers are able to take a break from being a patient for a week and focus on just being a kid! It’s an environment of acceptance and support to empower the children to be themselves.

Camp Wonder is provided at no cost to families (including airfare). Applicants must be approved by a medical review committee before acceptance.

Preparing for Camp with Eczema

Whether you’re going to an eczema camp or a traditional summer camp, planning is key. Here is what to consider as you prepare your child with eczema for camp.

  • Inform Others. Ensure camp staff knows your child’s skin condition and daily skincare routine. Bring multiple printed medical action plans for the staff and counselors.
  • Understand Triggers. Identify your child’s triggers in the action plan. Map out potential camp-related triggers so your child knows what to look out for outdoors. One such trigger is campfires. It may be important to minimize exposure to campfire smoke to protect the skin barrier.
  • Medications. Ensure you have packed all necessary medications. These may include antihistamines and prescription creams. Make sure your child and/or a counselor knows how to administer the medications. Check to see they are stored in the correct conditions.
  • Good Skin Hygiene. Ensure your camper sticks to their regular skincare routine at camp. Rinse off daily to remove allergens, sweat, sunscreen, or insect-repellent residues. Pack moisturizers, sunscreens, and other skincare products. Test all sunscreens and insect repellents prior to camp.
  • Clothing. Pack proper clothes. Suggestions for outdoor clothing include loose breathable fabrics with UV protection. Also, pack sun protection, such as hats and sunglasses.
  • Camping Gear. Ensure the sleeping bag’s material is not a trigger. A cotton or silk sleeping bag liner can help regulate temperature. If pillows are supplied, pack a pillow cover.
  • Weather and Allergen Count. Before sending your kid off to camp, check the weather report and UV levels. Consider potential triggers such as airborne allergens and pollutants to ensure you pack the appropriate protection.

Kids playing tug of war, on a beautiful day at asthma camp.

Is it Safe for People with Eczema to Go Camping?

Camping is a safe and enjoyable activity for many people with eczema. Make sure you have everything you need to manage eczema, from comfortable clothing to medications, while enjoying the great outdoors.

Reviewed by:
Purvi Parikh, MD, FACAAI is an adult and pediatric allergist and immunologist at Allergy and Asthma Associates of Murray Hill in New York City. She is on faculty as Clinical Assistant Professor in both departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine.