Tou have discussed camp activities, costs and other factors with your child — however, are they ready heath-wise? Children with or without allergies can learn how to be prepared and make healthy choices at camp.
“Honest communication is most important to help ensure the health and safety of campers,” says Dave Devey, director and owner of Falcon Camp in Carrollton.
For parents, the first step is filling out all the required medical forms that usually go along with camp registration.
“Tell me how you believe your child’s health status may impact them at camp,” says Lynne Rodrigues, camp nurse at Falcon Camp, who has been in pediatrics for 29 years, serving in critical care and as a school nurse. “I want parents to share whatever aspects of their child’s health history they deem appropriate for me to support the child while they are with us at camp. I want to know allergies to food, medications and the environment.”
Dr. Alice Hoyt, allergist at the Cleveland Clinic, says parents and their children with allergies should talk to their allergist before attending camp.
She recommends an anaphylaxis emergency action plan, which is a single sheet of information regarding symptoms and how to respond, such as medication or auto-injector use, in the case of an emergency situation.
“Before (your child) goes to camp, make sure to look at the food policies and what types of supplements kids can send,” Hoyt says, adding parents should ask if their child can send extra if the camp offers a sharing time. “Our society and so much of what we do is centered on food. If they can, send something for their non-allergy friends so that we can have that continued (sense of) community, despite food allergies.”
She also recommends, depending on the child’s age, to make sure they are aware of their allergies and talking with their friends. Also, find out if your child could carry their auto-injector or not while at camp.
“Once (your child) is at camp, have a contact person that you are comfortable with reaching out to (about your child’s allergies),” Hoyt suggests. “Encourage the adults taking care of those kids to advocate on behalf of them and look out for them to be part of the group. Camps should have different strategies for safety, including food allergies. Meet with the camp you are interested in and find out their level of knowledge. Make sure the camp has trained their counselors to recognize and respond to medical emergencies.”
The safety of camp depends on everyone helping out.
“Camp is a community,” Rodrigues says. “It takes the community to keep a child with allergies safe. Working and communicating honestly together is the best way to ensure your child will have a great camp experience.”
While a child doesn’t typically need a special check-up prior to camp, Rodrigues recommends having a complete medical check-up annually.
“I do, however, think it’s vital the pediatrician be aware a child is heading off to camp and sign off on the child’s medical fitness for camp programming,” she says.
At camp, especially those with outdoor activities, kids will participate in different weather and environments.
“Parents should be sure their child knows how to apply sunscreen and insect repellent,” Rodrigues says. “Proper footwear should be discussed and encouraged. Remind children to carry a water bottle and drink regularly. Teach children about good choices at mealtimes, rest times and clothing choices. Remind them the importance of hygiene, including bathing and tooth brushing. Teaching them about layering clothing is always helpful. Start the day with a jacket or sweatshirt and remove layers as temperatures warm.”
She recommends two to three pairs of shoes, water/shower shoes, water bottle, sunscreen, insect repellent, extra socks and underclothes.
“Children learn so many valuable lessons at camp,” she adds. “You can give your child an opportunity to grow and learn independence in a safe, fun way at camp.”