Summer camp is a great place for your child to create memories that will last a lifetime—making friends, learning new skills, and connecting with the outdoors. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your child has a safe and healthy camp experience.
You may be concerned that your child is not ready for camp, especially if he or she has a condition like diabetes, certain food allergies, or your child is very young. Before choosing a camp, make sure your child is ready. Talk to your child and evaluate their interests, abilities, and their overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Consider these factors when choosing a camp.
Before sending your young camper off, you should take your child to the doctor for a thorough exam. Provide the camp with a complete review of your child’s health. The review should include information about recent or ongoing illnesses, surgeries or injuries, and allergies. Make sure your child is current with all recommended immunizations. If your child will be traveling internationally as part of the camp, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information about particular immunizations or health concerns for the destination.
If your child has a special circumstance, such as an ongoing illness, work with your child’s doctor and the camp to create a plan. Your child’s doctor can help you determine if your child is able to attend camp safely. If your child takes any medications or needs treatments, work with the camp and your child’s doctor to make a plan for how medications and treatments will be handled.
If your child has a food allergy, you may worry about their food choices foods while at camp. Ask the camp about food storage, preparation, and cleaning policies. You may be able to send food with your child. If your child uses an epinephrine autoinjector (such as an EpiPen) to deal with allergic reactions, make sure it will not expire while they are gone and instruct them on how to use it. Talk to the camp staff and be sure they know how to store and administer it to your child if needed.
Homesickness can be a concern for campers and parents alike. Take these steps to minimize homesickness:
Avoid making pick-up arrangements with your child. These can undermine their confidence and ability to have a good time at camp. If you are truly worried that your child will become homesick, ask the camp how they deal with homesickness.
Consider choosing a camp with American Camp Association (ACA) accreditation. This means your child’s camp has been reviewed by the ACA and meets up to 300 standards covering everything from staff training to emergency preparedness.
Be sure that the camp you choose for your child is ready to handle any medical emergencies. All camps should have policies and procedures to deal with medical emergencies. Your child’s camp should meet these requirements:
Any camp you consider should be knowledgeable in treating the illnesses that most commonly plague campers, including:
Camps should also teach and/or have in place policies for proper hand washing, and coughing and sneezing techniques.
Consider these tips for finding a camp that is right for you and your child:
If the answers to these questions do not satisfy you, considering choosing another camp for your child.
All camps should provide a balanced, healthful diet for campers. Camps should follow the federal guidelines for school nutrition. Water for drinking should be available for campers throughout the day. Sugary drinks, including sports drinks, should be limited. Also, campers should get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day—though most will get much more.
Camp can be a great experience for you and your child. Be sure to do your homework to make sure you are choosing a camp that is a good fit for you and your child. When you are confident that you have chosen the right camp and that your child is ready, you can send them off with peace of mind.
American Camp Association
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
Canadian Camping Association
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
AAP helps young campers stay safe and healthy. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/news/Pages/AAP-Helps-Young-Campers-Stay-Safe-and-Healthy.aspx. Updated March 28, 2011. Accessed July 31, 2017.
A partnership of caring—parents and camps join together. American Camp Association website. Available at: https://www.acacamps.org/resource-library/parents/partnership-caring-parents-camps-join-together. Accessed July 31, 2017.
Camps for kids with special needs. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/finding-camp-special-needs.html?ref=search. Updated January 2014. Accessed July 31, 2017.
Council on School Health. Walton EA, Tothy AS. Creating healthy camp experiences. Pediatrics. 2011;127(4):794-799.
Summer camp with food allergies (video and resources). Kids With Food Allergies Foundation website. Available at: https://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/blog/summer-camp-with-food-allergies-video-and-resources. Updated March 12, 2015. Accessed July 31, 2017.
When can I go to sleepaway camp? Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/kids/when-camp.html. Updated June 2013. Accessed July 31, 2017.
Why an ACA-accredited camp? American Camp Association website. Available at: https://www.acacamps.org/campers-families/planning-camp/preparing-camp/fun-safety-aca-accredited-camps-set-standard. Accessed July 31, 2017.
Last reviewed July 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 7/31/2017