Nation’s pediatricians recommend advance preparation for medical emergencies ranging from homesickness to disease outbreaks to improve camp safety.
Thousands of children attend camp each year to enjoy new experiences and challenges, and whether they are canoeing, coding or creating art, they should be greeted with a positive, safe and healthy environment.
In an updated policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers recommendations to help families, physicians and camp administrators prepare for camp and make sure children’s health needs are considered, regardless of the setting.
The policy statement, “Improving Health and Safety at Camp,” published in the July 2019 issue of Pediatrics, breaks down guidance on immunizations, food allergies, and handling medications and health records, and is supported by the American Camp Association and Association of Camp Nursing.
“The camp experience can be tremendously rewarding and confidence-boosting,” said Michael Ambrose, MD, FAAP, lead author of the statement, produced by the AAP Council on School Health. “You will want to match the child’s interests, skills, and physical and emotional well-being with a camp that offers the best fit.”
All children should undergo a pre-camp health evaluation, according to the AAP. Parents need to be informed of the scope of health services available at the camp, and they are encouraged to discuss any special health needs with camp leadership in advance.
The AAP also recommends:
All campers should be immunized according to the recommended vaccine schedule. Camps should eliminate nonmedical exemptions for vaccines.
Campers should be instructed in the use of personal emergency medications or medical devices, such as inhalers or epinephrine auto-injectors, before arrival at camp.
Camp administrators should review local regulations for stocking unassigned epinephrine and other emergency medications for seizures, diabetes or opioid overdose. Specific protocols and training should be in place, and the devices should be kept in locations that are easily accessible to those who need them.
All camps should have an automated external defibrillator (AED) on site.
Because about 8% of children have food allergies, camps should create and provide their food allergy policies to families in advance and discuss those policies with food vendors.
Electronic health records are strongly recommended to reduce errors and improve risk management.
The camp should establish health policies and protocols that have been approved by a pediatrician or family physician. All camps need to have personnel on-site who can administer first aid. Administrators should form relationships with the community’s emergency medical services and local dental and mental health specialists, according to the AAP.
Approximately 14 million children supported by 1.5 million staff attend day and resident camps in the United States.
“Having a plan in place – and making sure that staff are properly trained – will help everyone feel more relaxed and eager to enjoy the experience,” Dr. Ambrose said. “A healthy camper is a happy camper.”