A pediatric and sports medicine expert offers tips on getting the most out of summer camp for your child.
Going to summer camp for a child can be an amazing experience with memories that can last for a lifetime. However, a bad experience at camp may not only create bad memories but discourage kids from future opportunities.
Don’t just show up and send your kid to camp.
Show up with a plan for success for your child at summer camp.
Get your physical early!
Many camps require pre-participation evaluations. This is a good time not just to get your form filled out, but to get a handle on how your child is growing and developing well while addressing any health questions or medical issues.
- Call your child’s physician or medical provider now to get your physical scheduled.
- Make sure you fill out required camp forms ahead of time and bring them to the visit.
- Make sure your child is also caught up on any necessary vaccines for camp.
- Don’t let an incomplete or outdated medical form or vaccine card keep your child from the camp of his or her dreams.
Plan for children with medical issues.
If your child has concerns such as asthma, food allergies or diabetes, they should be discussed at the visit. Our responsibilities as medical professionals are to create specific action plans to give your child the best chance to thrive at camp, while having a back-up plan in place in case something were to happen. You can also make sure that your child has an appropriate amount of medication to take to camp as needed.
Bring a friend!
Being away from home the first time can be challenging. Going to camp with a trusted friend or friends can make that experience easier. Don’t be afraid to reach out to either family or childhood friends to share in the camp experience.
Start some good habits before sending your child to camp.
- Regular sun protection. Many summer camps are at an altitude where sun exposure is more intense. A sunburn can limit activity and worst case require an early trip home. Get in the habit of regular sunscreen utilization. It should be applied every two hours and after being in water, or if there was excessive sweating. A child who has a habit of good sunscreen will use it better when they’re at camp.
- Focus on fluid intake. Summer camps often take place in hot and humid environments. Encourage your child to drink water on a regular basis. Make sure that the camp offers regular fluid breaks, and shade as needed. Try to keep your child in a regular routine of drinking fluids throughout warmer days to prepare for the camp experience.
- Be prepared for activity levels at camp. If your child is going to a camp that features cool activities like hiking, canoeing and other outdoor activities, build up the level of outdoor play before heading up to camp. A child who is not as physically active can start by playing more outside, walking and doing other activities that will help prepare for active fun at summer camp.
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Find out about water safety.
Before sending your child to camp, find out about swimming pools, lakes and other water experiences available at camp. Find out about lifeguards and other water safety precautions that will be taken. Be realistic about your child’s swim comfort and consider additional swim lessons or pool time before a camp that has a higher amount of water opportunities.
Know what medical resources are available if something happens while your child is at camp.
No one wants to believe that kids will get sick or hurt at camp. However, kids do get sick and hurt at camp. Who will be there for your child? Is there a camp nurse, an athletic trainer or a clinic on the campgrounds? Where is the closest hospital? Or urgent care? If your child has special health care needs, how will these best be addressed while they are at camp?
Ask about the policy on electronics.
Camps have different philosophies — some with no access to electronics while others grant more opportunity for campers to use them. Find out ahead of time and discuss expectations with your child to be consistent with the camp by being consistent with camp policies. If your child is used to connecting with you every day and may not have this opportunity, it may be helpful to adjust electronics expectations prior to camp.
Be prepared to help with homesickness.
Talk with your child ahead of time about the potential of being homesick. Acknowledge that this may occur but focus on positive outcomes. Remind the child that many kids have worked through this by having unique experiences, making new friends and coming home excited to share their memories with you. Also, ask the camp if you can send a letter to your child at the halfway point. This will also help them get through their time at camp. If not, consider including a note or two in their camp bag.
Dr. Chris Koutures is a dual board-certified pediatric and sports medicine specialist who practices at ActiveKidMD in Anaheim Hills. He offers a comprehensive blend of general pediatric and sport medicine care with an individualized approach to each patient and family. Visit activekidmd.com or follow him on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/activekidmd/), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/activekidmd/), or Twitter (@dockoutures).
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