Create a Healthy Summer Camp Experience for Your Child
Summer camp is a great place for your child to create memories that will last a lifetime—making friends, learning new skills, and connecting with the outdoors! Here are some steps you can take to make sure your child has a safe and healthy camp experience.
Prepare Your Child
You may be concerned that your child is not ready for camp, especially if they have an illness (eg, diabetes), food allergies, or are very young. Before choosing a camp, make sure your child is ready. Talk to your child and evaluate their interests, abilities, and their overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Consider these factors when choosing a camp.
See Your Child’s Doctor
Before sending your camper off, you will want to take your child to the doctor for a thorough exam. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you provide the camp with a complete review of your child’s health. The review should include information about recent or ongoing illnesses, surgeries or injuries, and allergies. Make sure your child is current with all recommended immunizations. If your child will be traveling internationally as part of the camp, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for information about particular immunizations or health concerns for their destination.
What If My Child Has Special Needs?
If your child has a special circumstance, such as an ongoing illness, work with your child’s doctor and the camp to create a plan. Your child’s doctor can help you determine if your child is able to attend camp safely. If your child takes any medicines or needs treatments, work with the camp and your child’s doctor to make a plan for how medicines and treatments will be handled.
What If My Child Has Food Allergies?
If your child has a food allergy, you may worry that they will have a hard time choosing safe foods while at camp. Ask the camp about food storage, preparation, and cleaning policies. You may be able to send food with your child. If your child uses an epinephrine autoinjector (such as an EpiPen) to deal with allergic reactions, make sure they know how to use it. Talk to the camp staff and be sure they know how to administer it to your child if needed.
What If My Child Gets Homesick?
Homesickness can be a concern for campers and parents alike. Take these steps to avoid homesickness:
Avoid making “pick-up” arrangements with your child. These can undermine their confidence and ability to have a good time at camp. If you are truly worried that your child will become homesick, ask the camp how they deal with homesickness.
Choose a Camp That Is…
Accredited by the American Camp Association
Consider choosing a camp with American Camp Association (ACA) accreditation. This means your child’s camp has been reviewed by the ACA and meets up to 300 standards covering everything from staff training to emergency preparedness.
Prepared for Medical Emergencies
Be sure that the camp you choose for your child is ready to handle any medical emergencies. The AAP recommends that all camps have policies and procedures to deal with medical emergencies. Your child’s camp should meet these requirements:
Ready to Treat Common Camp Illnesses
Any camp you consider should be knowledgeable in treating the illnesses that most commonly plague campers, including:
Eager to Answer All Your Questions
The Better Business Bureau gives these tips for finding a camp that is right for you and your child:
If the answers to these questions do not satisfy you, considering choosing another camp for your child.
Committed to Keeping Your Child Healthy While at Camp
The AAP recommends that all camps provide a healthy diet for campers. Camps should follow the federal guidelines for school nutrition. Water for drinking should be available for campers throughout the day. Sugary drinks, including sports drinks, should be limited. Also, campers should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day—though most will get much more!
Camp can be a great experience for you and your child. Be sure to do your homework to make sure you are choosing a camp that is a good fit for you and your child. When you are confident that you have chosen the right camp and that your child is ready, you can send them off with peace of mind!
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Camp Association
Canadian Camping Association
Canadian Paediatric Society
AAP helps young campers stay safe and healthy. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthy.... Published March 28, 2011. Accessed August 5, 2011.
BBB advises parents to check facilities, qualifications to ensure safe, rewarding camp experience for child. Better Business Bureau website. Available at: http://lima.bbb.or.... Published March 10, 2011. Accessed August 5, 2011.
Creating healthy camp experiences. Pediatrics. 2011;127:794-799.
Fun and safety—ACA camps set the standard. American Camp Association website. Available at: http://www.campparents.org/funsafety. Accessed August 5, 2011.
Gluten free camp a hit for kids with celiac disease. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthy.... Published February 15, 2010. Accessed August 5, 2011.
Make summer camp safe for your food-allergic child. Kids With Food Allergies Foundation website. Available at: http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/resourcespre.php?id=146&. Published January 2010. Accessed August 5, 2011.
A partnership of caring—parents and camps join together. American Camp Association website. Available at: http://www.campparents.org/childprotection. Accessed August 5, 2011.
Sending your child with special needs to camp. Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/system/ill/sending_child_camp.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed August 5, 2011.
When can I go to sleepaway camp? Kids Health website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/when/when_camp.html. Updated May 2010. Accessed August 5, 2011.
Last reviewed August 2011 by Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH