BY JAMIE LOBER
It might have recently been snowing outside, but summer camp is around the corner. Begin now to help your kids learn these simple tips offered in this feature to help to ensure their health and safety at camp this summer
Camps try to be up front about what they have on their agendas by posting on a website or sending a mailer home. “Camps try to make sure their staff is CPR and first aid-certified and that there is a registered nurse or doctor on the campgrounds twenty-four hours a day so when things come up there is an infirmary stocked as good as some hospital’s local emergency rooms,” said Harmon Tison, director at Athens Y Camp.
The pre-participatory camp physical is important because only parents and the doctor can fairly determine whether a camp can reasonably address a child’s medical needs. “The doctor okays kids to participate in activities or with limited activity and records health issues like allergies,” said Tison. Some doctor’s offices have a generic form that can be used for camp. The timing is often perfect. “Since a lot of camps are during the summertime, we go ahead and get everything done for school in the fall at the same time,” said Dr. Dan Stewart at Cornerstone Pediatrics in Warner Robins.
Pediatricians take advantage of the camp physical to get the child caught up on things. “We check a hemoglobin, make sure they are not anemic, check urine to make sure it looks okay and update any immunizations they are due for,” said Stewart. Once your child is all set, has his forms completed and has talked with you about how to stay healthy and safe while away from home, it is time to hit the road. “Wearing your seat-belt to and from camp is something that you may not necessarily think about but car safety comes first,” said Stewart.
Most camps check kids at arrival and departure for lice, marks, bumps, scrapes and bruises. This is also a good time for parents to be present and review any special accommodations that need to be made. “The camp should know how your child takes regular medicines on schedule whether it is for allergies or asthma, what their insulin doses are if they are diabetic and just keep track of things,” said Stewart.
Immunizations are required so your child can avoid catching a preventable illness. “Sometimes young kids can pass around meningitis so that might be a good vaccine to get,” said Dr. Jennifer Shu, spokesman for The American Academy of Pediatrics in Atlanta. If you elect to skip an immunization, camps require a letter as to why there was a religious or personal exemption just like a school system would.
Review the medical form thoroughly and do not leave off any minor details. “If there is an allergy like bee sting, a particular food or drug that we do not know about it can cause problems,” said Tison. If your child is taking a medication, it is important that he brings it with him and that you are clear about dispensing instructions. “Your doctor should know about chronic illnesses such as asthma, heart problems or severe food allergies because some children may need to take medicine with them like asthma inhalers or an EpiPen for a serious allergy,” said Shu.
Be open about allergies. “Kids will be eating things they are not used to so the camp needs to know about food, medicine and environmental allergies,” said Shu. This way the camp may be able to label foods like peanuts that are highly allergenic. “Having a camper wear a bracelet or wristband that shows what kind of allergies or medical conditions he has can be helpful too,” said Shu. Poison ivy can also be problematic as some kids are more sensitive than others.
Leave names and numbers with the camp. “Have as many contacts as possible in case the parents cannot be reached right away,” said Shu. Friends and relatives may be good choices. “You may want to find a release giving the camp permission to get medical treatment for your child in an emergency situation,” said Shu.
Ask questions of the camp. “You want to make sure the camp has some kind of first aid capability and figure out what they will do in the case of serious emergency such as if they have a policy in place for calling 911 or taking a child to the hospital,” said Shu. Be sure that everyone is on the same page. “The health history form goes on file and is given to counselors so they are made aware of any health issues a camper may have and are prepared in case something happens,” said Kyle Muir, director at Camp Pathways in Macon.
Many camps are taking precautions in response to the AAP’s recommendation. “We have to send a letter out to the fire department and the Middle Georgia ambulance so they know that we have 120 kids here and that emergencies are likely with handling that many children,” said Muir.
Be sure your child knows how to protect himself within reason. “Since you are in a close-quarter environment, you deal with more cruise ship-type viruses that are easily passed around,” said Tison. As a result, camps stress hygiene like washing your hands and bathing and not sharing personal items. A few tips to share with your child include:
- Cover your cough
- Wear a helmet when riding a bike or horse
- Wear a life-jacket when going out in the water
- Swim with a buddy
- Wear insect repellent
- Stay away from plants that look poisonous
- Stay away from wild animals, even cute ones
- Get help if you have an injury, splinter, sprained ankle, cut or bee sting
- Stay hydrated to avoid heat illness
- Wear sunscreen
- Do not swim without supervision
- Stay in the shade and be careful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest
The discussion about your child’s health at summer camp is too important to ignore. “For a child to have a good, happy, fun experience, they need to stay safe and healthy while they are there,” said Shu. #