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Keep your kids safe at camp

Editor’s Note: Have you chosen camps for your children this summer? If not, check out our Camp & Summer Program KidoGuide.

By Giana Lewis-Fairley

Once you’ve decided where your children will be attending camp this summer, it’s time to think about how best to prepare them for a fun, healthy, and safe experience away from home.

From determining what to pack to obtaining a camp physical, there’s a lot to consider. And it’s only natural for both parents and campers to have some anxiety; especially for first-timers and those who cope with chronic health issues.

As a family physician assistant, I’ve completed hundreds of camp physicals and talked with parents and children as they prepare for summer. Here are some key recommendations and tips.

Health Policies and Camp Physicals

Start by taking some time to review and understand the camp’s health care policies and practices well in advance. This information should be readily available on the camp’s website or in your camper’s registration materials. If you can’t find it, make a list of questions and call the camp staff to obtain the answers you need.

Most camps will require a physical with medical records needing to be submitted several weeks prior to arrival.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to complete this physical, yet I frequently see parents and campers who wait until the last minute and are unable to obtain an appointment with a primary care provider.

Camp physicals can be obtained from your child’s pediatrician or at a walk-in retail clinic like MinuteClinic. Health care insurance providers may not cover camp and sports physicals, so be sure to inquire about the cost before you visit. Prices can vary quite a bit.

A proper camp physical should include: a review of health history and immunizations, height and weight check, thorough physical exam and a stamp or signature on exam forms. Parents should remember to bring a copy of their child’s immunization records.

Chronic Health Issues

If your camper has asthma, diabetes, serious allergies, or other chronic health care concerns, there are added considerations you need to factor into your preparation.

I advise parents who have children who require daily care to contact the camp in advance to understand how medicines and preventive treatment are handled. Determine what care can be expected from the camp nurse or athletic trainer (in the case of sports camps) and what medications your child can administer on their own. This could include inhalers for asthma treatment, insulin injections, and other prescription medication.

Food allergies

If your child has food allergies, then speak with the camp nutritionist or cook to ensure that menus are tailored to meet their dietary requirements. And if they have a peanut allergy or are allergic to insect stings, determine whether your camper can carry their own EpiPen to defend against anaphylaxis shock. Make sure that camp counselors are equipped with an extra auto-injector on site and are trained to administer care.

What to Pack

Begin early by putting together a camp packing list. Some of the items that I remind parents to include in their child’s duffel bag are: hiking boots if the camp is in a rugged environment (which should be broken in advance); slip-resistant water shoes for showers and pool; lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants for hikes and activities (to protect against ticks, poison ivy, and the sun’s rays); adhesive strips for cuts and blisters; hand sanitizer or antiseptic wipes for easy clean-up; lip balm; and necessary eye care items including sun glasses, goggles for sports, extra contact lenses or glasses.

Type of sun block

For sun block, you should choose a broad-spectrum product with an SPF of 30 which blocks 97 percent of UVA and UVB rays with spray and stick options for easier application. Insect repellent (with/without DEET) are available in spray or wipe options.

As a parent, your careful planning and preparation should help to ensure a safe journey of fun and growth for your child.

Giana Lewis-Fairley is a Physician Assistant at the MinuteClinic inside the CVS Pharmacy store in Woonsocket on Cass Avenue. She resides in the area and is the mother of a three-year-old daughter.

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