It’s that exciting time of year when kids start asking can I go tot camp? Most parents, of course, rejoice at the thought of some kid-free time in the summer! However, if your kid has a medical condition—food allergies, diabetes, asthma, or epilepsy, for example—it can be harder to figure out the right place to send them. Of course, you want them to have the same experience as other kids, but above all, you want them to be healthy and safe!
The good news is that most camps are well prepared to host campers with medical conditions—and for kids who have conditions that have more intense management needs, such as type 1 diabetes, often there are camps for kids just with these conditions. Diabetes camp, asthma camp, HIV/AIDS camps or cancer camps allow campers with medical conditions a really special time to meet others who share their medical circumstances, and can relate to them in a way that parents often can’t, and offer parents a camp environment where they know their child is safe and being cared for by people who have a lot of knowledge on what they are dealing with—in addition to nurses and doctors, these camps are often staffed by counsellors who have lived with the diseases being faced by campers, who both know from personal experience and are trained in how to help keep kids safe and healthy.
Regardless of what sort of camp you choose, here are things to keep in mind when selecting a camp for your kids with medical conditions:
- Medical staff qualifications – Is the camp staffed by a nurse, doctor, or health care aide who has experience dealing with your child’s medical condition?
- Training of cabin counsellors or camp staff – How much training with regard to your camper’s medical condition do staff members have?
- How and when is medicine administered?
- What supplies or medicines will your child be able to carry with them? It is important that items like inhalers, epinephrine injectors, and blood glucose monitors and low glucose treatments are carried with the camper at all times, and not locked away.
- Can extra supplies or medicines be stored at different locations around camp?
- How independent does your child need to be in managing their medical condition? How much will they be supported by medical staff?
- Provide a written care plan for your child’s medical needs including when to phone you for assistance
- Ensure campers are wearing medical ID jewelry – while all camp staff should be aware of your child’s needs, a medical ID bracelet or necklace (preferably a “camp-proof” sport band or stainless steel style!) can provide an extra layer of security.
If you are looking for a camp, your local chronic disease organization can likely assist you in finding one appropriate for your child. However, the internet is also a great resource: Very Special Camps is a website that helps connect parents with camps that may be appropriate for their child with special medical needs.