PEDIATRICIAN DR. DYAN HES HAS ADVICE FOR PREPARING TO SEND CHILDREN WITH CHRONIC CONDITIONS TO CAMP
NEW YORK, NY – Many kids will head to camp for a summer of fun-filled activities. As parents check off the list of things kids will need to bring, it is important to have a separate checklist if your child suffers from a chronic condition such as asthma, diabetes, or allergies. Dr. Dyan Hes, Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics and a Camp Doctor, offers a camp checklist to help parents prepare properly to ensure their child stays healthy at camp, whether it is a day camp or a sleepaway camp.
“Kids with chronic conditions can enjoy many of the same camp activities as other children without incident,” says Dr. Hes. “But proper preparation, communication, and action plans are essential to ensure that your child is properly cared for in the event of an emergency.”
Here are Dr. Hes’ tips for preparing for camp:
Get a Physical Examination
The first thing parents should do is get a medical examination to ensure that the child is physically able to attend camp. Dr. Hes recommends an exam for any child, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions. “It is highly recommended that any child attending camp, especially an overnight camp, have a medical examination,” says Dr. Hes. “For children with underlying medical conditions, if the condition is well-managed, typically the child is able to attend camp. However, if the child’s condition requires more care, it is best to either find a specialty camp where they will have more attention or keep the child home.”
Choose the Best Camp for Your Child
Researching camps and finding one that best suits the needs of your child is strongly advised. “Do your homework when selecting a camp,” recommends Dr. Hes. “Some camps now are “nut-free” or offer diabetic-friendly meals. If your child has a condition that requires special attention, with a little research, you might find a camp that meets your needs.”
Make Sure the Camp has a Certified Medical Profession
Most camps (especially sleepaway camps) will have a medical professional on staff. Dr. Hes recommends speaking with the medical team in advance to discuss your child’s specific condition. Give the camp doctor or nurse the child’s history and medications they are taking to ensure they are aware of the child’s medical needs. This better equips them in treating your child and reacting quickly should there be an emergency.
Send Extra Rescue Medication
Don’t assume the camp will have any of these supplies on hand. Send one for your child to keep on them at all times, and also leave an extra supply with the camp’s medical personnel. Make sure the child and the counselors are properly instructed on how to use inhalers, epinephrine, and inject insulin.
“When packing medical supplies, tell the child what they need to keep on them at all times,” suggests Dr. Hes. “The closer rescue medicine is to the child, the faster they receive a life-saving treatment. Don’t assume a counselor will carry these items.” Some older children are permitted to carry rescue medicines, but younger children require an adult to administer the medicine.
For kids with diabetes, also pack a glucometer, testing strips, insulin pump supplies including extra batteries, and sugary snacks to manage blood-sugar lows. For kids with food allergies, pack at least two epinephrine injectors, and prepare and pack awareness materials to be shared with the food prepares, camp counselors, and bunkmates. Include instructions of proper use of the epinephrine. If your child suffers from food allergies, send snacks that are allergy-friendly, so they don’t feel left out or accidently eat something with an allergen. Remember some medicines cannot be left in the heat. You may need to supply a lunch bag with an ice pack for proper storage at camp.
Don’t Put Kids on a Drug Holiday
“If a child takes regular medication for non-life-threatening conditions such as attention deficit disorder, it is best to continue regular dosages,” says Dr. Hes. Some parents like their children to be on a “drug holiday” for the summer. Please discuss this with the physician because camp is a long day. There are rules to follow and participation requires concentration. Your child may struggle without the ADD medicines. This may lead to a poor camp experience.
Kids with Seasonal Allergies
Some children may have seasonal allergies that aren’t life-threatening but can make for a miserable experience. If your child is prone to allergies, pack the appropriate medication, even if the child isn’t showing symptoms.
Have an Action Plan
Regardless of a child’s chronic condition, it is necessary to create an action plan for the camp, the counselors, and the medical staff to properly prepare for an emergency. This includes ensuring everyone knows triggers and how to avoid them, camp personnel are able to recognize the symptoms when your child is in distress, and that everyone has been properly trained in using a rescue device.
If your child is going to sleepaway camp, it is important to discuss the meningitis vaccine with your pediatrician.
About Dr. Dyan Hes
Dr. Dyan Hes, named a top doctor by NEW YORK magazine, is the Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatricsin New York City and is a Director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Dr. Hes is double boarded in both pediatrics and obesity medicine. She completed her residency in Social Pediatrics at New York’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center. She currently serves as Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Prior to founding Gramercy Pediatrics, Dr. Hes maintained a large primary care practice for ten years within Park Slope Pediatrics in Brooklyn. In addition, she developed and was the Director of the Pediatric Weight Management Program at New York Methodist Hospital. In conjunction with the Park Slope YMCA, Dr. Hes created the Be Fit program for overweight children, which has served as a successful model of collaboration between hospitals and community centers. An active advocate for pediatric and adolescent nutrition and weight management, Dr. Hes was honored by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz for her efforts to combat obesity among Brooklyn youth. In 2006, she served as an Expert Witness at the NYC Department of Health Hearing to Ban Trans Fat in Restaurant Food. Currently, Dr. Hes is a pediatrician serving as a Director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine. Dr. Hes practices both primary care and obesity medicine. She was named one of New York’s Top Doctors of 2011 – 2017 by Castle and Connolly.