Making Safety Part of Summer Camp Fun

Experts issue new guidelines to parents, staff

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MONDAY, June 6, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- An American ritual, summer camp, is about to begin again this year as it has for decades. Experts estimate that more than 10 million kids will leave home this summer to commune with nature as they make new friends.

"Summer camp, whether it's day camp or sleep-away, can be a great experience for children -- but it's crucial that parents, camp officials and medical professionals work together to make it as safe and problem-free as possible for children," Dr. Edward Walton, a University of Michigan Health System physician who specializes in camp health, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues have drafted new summer camp "health and safety" rules -- not for kids, but for parents and camp directors.

Published in the June issue of Pediatrics, the guidelines are also an official policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and were prepared in conjunction with the American Camp Association.

Among their recommendations:

  • Parents should make sure to ask camp officials what kinds of health services they have, including emergency response.
  • Campers should provide, and camps should require, a full health exam and list of any medications campers use. Children should always have immediate access to emergency drugs for asthma and allergies.
  • Parents shouldn't regard camp as a time to give their children a "holiday" from drug regimens, or any behavioral or mental health issues.

For some kids, those weeks away from home can be daunting, especially if the experience is new. But experts say a little preparation in the weeks before camp begins can help prevent homesickness.

"If parents discuss camp positively, avoid expressing doubts about a child's ability to avoid homesickness, involve the child in preparations for camp and arrange brief trips or sleepovers away from home, children should be better prepared to go to camp," Walton said. "Parents should also avoid making prearranged plans with their children about picking them up if they get homesick."

The guidelines also recommend that pediatricians get involved with camps in their areas to ensure that each facility's health policies are up to date. Pediatricians can also act as backups to nurses and paramedic-trained camp health officers.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these summer safety tips.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, June 6, 2005

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