An annual trip to summer camp is a favorite tradition for many families. If your child has asthma or allergies, you’ll want to do some extra preparation to make sure that camp is a fun and memorable experience.
It all starts with finding the camp that is right for your son or daughter. You may want to consider one of the many camps that are specifically designed for young people with allergies or asthma. These camps provide kids with an opportunity to connect with their peers and learn how to manage their conditions – plus they give parents peace of mind knowing children are in good hands. You can find a list of asthma camps here.
On the other hand, you don’t need to assume that your child’s options are limited. If your kids would like to attend a camp that is not health-related or if they have specific interests such as music or sports, there’s likely a suitable program out there for them.
No matter which camp you finally choose, you’ll want to do plenty of homework beforehand. Be sure the camp is aware of your child’s unique needs and that all staff members (not just the lead counselor or nurse) are capable of handling them. Camp staff should understand how to identify symptoms and potential risks as well as know what to do in case of an emergency.
Before your son or daughter leaves for camp, schedule an appointment with the doctor. Review your child’s allergy or asthma symptom history and treatment plan. Ask for advice about managing symptoms while they are away at camp. Discuss their self-management skills and how to strengthen them, if necessary, before they leave home. Check that all medications are up-to-date and that you have enough to send along with them. Renew prescriptions as needed.
Talk to the camp about how to ensure your child’s emergency medications – quick-relief bronchodilator inhaler for asthma, epinephrine auto-injector for severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis – are always available, whether carried by the child or the counselor. Camp conditions may not be ideal for storing asthma and allergy medications, which can be rendered less effective if they are not stored properly. Most should be kept out of the heat as much as possible and sealed in a Ziplock bag if there is a chance of them getting wet. Send along backup medication to keep with the camp’s medical personnel just in case.
Summer camps are a great opportunity for kids to develop independence and self-reliance. Empower them with information to monitor their own symptoms and know when they need help. Brainstorm and plan how to handle risks such as smoke from bonfires or swimming in chlorinated pools that may trigger symptoms.
Communication is key. Take time now to prepare, then feel confident that you, your child and the camp staff are all on the same page and can work together to make this year’s summer camp a safe and fun experience.