Attending camp can be an unforgettable experience for young children, and it can have a positive effect on their psychological development, self esteem and independence. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised the policy statement, “Creating Healthy Camp Experiences,” in the April 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online March 28), to provide guidelines to help care for campers in all situations, including children with medical or psychological issues.
Before choosing a camp, parents should evaluate their child’s interests, skills and overall well-being to make sure the child can effectively participate in a particular camp environment. Parents should also medically and psychologically prepare their child for camp, and work with their pediatrician, camp health providers and administrators on a pre-camp health evaluation.
To help prevent homesickness — a common distress among campers — the following tips may be helpful for parents and prospective campers:
- Involve the child in choosing and preparing for camp.
- Be positive about the upcoming experience, and openly discuss homesickness.
- Arrange practice trips or sleepovers away from home with friends or relatives.
Camp administrators should follow specific health policies and procedures addressing both major and minor injuries and illnesses, and train staff in proper storage and administration of medications. Camps that have an automated external defibrillator (AED) or other emergency medical devices such as epi-pens or inhalers should be kept in easily accessible locations and ensure that medical staff are properly trained in their use.
Because of the recent H1N1 influenza pandemic and cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the revised statement also includes a recommendation that camps should have an emergency management plan for infectious outbreaks and encourage good hygiene/hand-washing practices among campers.
Camps should only serve foods that follow federal guidelines for school nutrition. Food should never be used as a reward, nor should withholding food be used as a punishment. At least 30 minutes of daily physical activity should be part of any healthy camp program. This policy statement was reviewed and is supported by the American Camp Association.
Click here for HealthyChildren.org Radio podcasts on summer camps and kids.