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Preparing Your Child for Summer Camp

NEW YORK (May 1, 2012)

Joan S. Bregstein, M.D.
Joan S. Bregstein, M.D.

Most people have fond memories of their camping experiences. For parents, the anxiety of preparing for those days can be agonizing. Whether it's a day camp or an extended stay, parents can make the most out of the experience by preparing in advance.

"Parents should ask camp organizers basic questions about what plans they have in place to keep kids safe, handle medical emergencies, and deal with routine health needs," says Joan S. Bregstein, M.D., Pediatric Emergency Medicine physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

"Camp staff should be trained in first-aid/CPR and also be thoroughly familiar with the facility's protocol in case of a medical emergency," says Dr. Bregstein. "Parents should receive a copy of those guidelines or have access to them through a posting on the website or on a bulletin board at the facility."

Dr. Bregstein offers parents and guardians the following tips for a safe and injury-free summer camp experience:

  • Share emergency contacts. Parents should give the camp the emergency contacts for all children, as well as the child's physician including name, telephone numbers, fax number and the date of the last health care visit. Additionally, parents should have the emergency contact information for staff handy. If your child has a medical condition, camp staff should be notified.
  • Get a physical before they get physical. Make sure your child undergoes a physical examination and that his or her vaccinations are up-to-date.
  • Stay hydrated. Remind your child to drink plenty of water, even if they do not feel thirsty.
  • Teach your child to practice sun safety. Pack lightweight clothing in light colors with a loose fit to keep the sun at bay and to keep body temperatures at a normal level. Also remind your child to use sun block (SPF 30 or greater) regularly when outdoors for prolonged periods of time, even on hazy or cloudy days. Children should also be reminded to reapply sun block frequently, especially after swimming.
  • Teach your child to be safe in the water. Remind your child to follow all camp rules in and around pools, lakes and other bodies of water. Children should never be around water without a certified lifeguard on duty.
  • Keep the bugs off. Avoid scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays on your child. Refrain from using a product containing a combination sunscreen-DEET formulation as the directions for each are different, and the use of a combination formulation can potentially lead to DEET toxicity.

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