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Pre-Camp Health Check

Kids need a lot for camp, starting with a clean bill of health and a plan for tending to their wellness needs while away. Here's what to know.


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BOOK THEIR WELLNESS CHECKUP NOW.

Physical appointments in the spring fill up fast, and camps typically need forms submitted by June.

TEND TO THEIR TEETH.

Check in with your child’s dentist and orthodontist to make sure she's cavity free and that wires, brackets and bands are good to go if she wears braces. Don’t forget to pack some extra wax and orthodontic floss (and remind them to actually use it).

LEAVE OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDS WITH CAMP MEDICAL STAFF.

“Kids should not have anything in the cabins with them. We want to know what they’re taking,” says Jaime Hayes, a staff nurse at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Maplewood mom of three, who also tends to kids each summer at Pine Bush Bible Camp in upstate New York. Bunks typically have first aid kits so counselors can address minor boo-boos, but only infirmary staff can dole out medication (and you must give them permission to give it to your child asneeded).

GET PRESCRIPTION MEDS IN ORDER.

Some camps expect parents to send meds (usually in the original bottle or package with amounts and directions clearly indicated), while others require you fill a new prescription at a local pharmacy. Others mandate parents use a service that bundles pills into daily packets to be doled out at meals. In any case, check your camp’s policy a few months out so you have time to prepare. Speaking of preparedness, provide just-in-case meds like asthma inhalers and EpiPens even if your child hasn’t needed one in years. “You never know what your kids may respond to,” says Hayes. “New environments can trigger allergic reactions.”

GET TO KNOW THE CAMP NURSE.

Does your child have special medical needs? Most camps can handle diabetes, seizure disorders, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), allergies and other chronic illness. All it takes is some planning, so speak to the camp nurse about what makes sense (that includes things like picky eating or social anxiety). “Be honest about things that are going on with your child. The camp will work with you,” Hayes says.

SHOW THEM HOW TO APPLY SUNSCREEN.

Kids need to learn how much sunscreen to use, how often to reapply and which spots they’ll likely omit (like tops of ears and lips). Also, insist they use a swim shirt.

TEACH THEM ABOUT TICKS.

If your child attends a camp in tick country, the staff will need to a do a full body check every single night, paying extra special attention to warm, moist spots and looking for dark spots that feel like small grains of sand under the skin (and some camps leave it up to the kids to check). If they do find a tick, make sure they know to alert a grown-up and get it taken out by the nurse.

PACK FOR ALL SEASONS.

Hope for warm and sunny, prepare for cold and damp. Pack long pants, a cozy sweatshirt, rain gear and good shoes that dry quickly and offer support and stability. Flip-flops are terrible for trekking and can result in serious toe and arch pain, along with twisted ankles thanks to unpredictable terrain. Encourage sock wearing, too—they thwart ticks and stinky feet (a health hazard to everyone around them).

MAKE SURE YOUR KID'S COVERED.

Accidents happen. Determine whether your health insurance provider covers your kid at camp, and buy supplemental insurance if necessary. Some camps offer or include it in the overall cost.

—Jennifer Kantor is a mom of three from Maplewood.

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