Before camp starts, the kids will need to cleared by a doctor and prepared for everything from sunburn to mosquitoes. Here are some health basics to get taken care of before they head out.
BOOK THEIR WELLNESS CHECKUP NOW
Appointment openings 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 her wires, brackets and bands are good to go if she wears braces. Don’t forget to pack extra wax and orthodontic floss (and remind her to actually use them).
LEAVE OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDS WITH THE CAMP MEDICAL STAFF
“Kids shouldn’t 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 as needed).
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 that parents use a service that bundles pills into daily packets to be given at mealtime. 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 them 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 illnesses. 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 she wear a swim shirt.
TEACH THEM ABOUT TICKS
This is a must! If your child attends 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 areas and looking for dark spots that feel like small grains of sand under the skin. Some camps leave it up to the kids to check. If she finds a tick on her own, make sure she knows 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 cause serious toe and arch pain or twisted ankles. Encourage sock wearing, too—it thwarts ticks and stinky feet (a health hazard to everyone).
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 camp health insurance is offered or included in the overall cost.
—Jennifer Kantor is a mom of two from Maplewood.