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Health & Parenting

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Tips for a Healthy Summer Camp

Pediatric Group's Revised Guidelines: Parents Should Make Sure Children Are Physically and Mentally Ready
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

March 28, 2011 -- Parents should consider their children’s skills, interests, and overall physical and mental health before selecting a summer camp, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says in a revised policy statement.

The new statement also suggests steps parents can take to reduce homesickness. Those include:

  • Involve children in choosing a camp and preparing for camp.
  • Be upbeat in discussing the upcoming camping experience and openly talk about homesickness, a major complaint of youngsters.
  • Arrange for practice time away from home with friends or relatives.

The AAP recommends that parents avoid making pre-arranged pick-up plans in the event of homesickness, which could cause children to wonder about their readiness for independence.

Also, before choosing a camp, parents should “medically and psychosocially prepare their child” and work with their pediatrician, camp health providers, and administrators on a pre-camp health evaluation.

Camp Officials' Responsibilities

The revised statement was written by Edward A. Walton, MD, director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

Walton, also national spokesman for the National Camp Association, urges camp administrators to follow specific health policies and have procedures in place to handle major and minor health problems.

The AAP recommends that all camps make an evaluation as to the need for an automated external defibrillator (AED) at the camp location.

The new guidelines also say that camps:

  • Should have personnel familiar with CPR.
  • Should have an emergency plan to deal with possible outbreaks or cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
  • Encourage good hygiene and hand-washing techniques among all campers.
  • Should serve only foods that follow federal guidelines for school nutrition.
  • Never offer food as a reward or threaten to withhold it as punishment.
  • Plan for at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity.
  • Require campers to provide officials a complete annual review of their health from a licensed health care provider. This should include a comprehensive history.
  • Campers with histories of conditions such as asthma, seizures, diabetes, allergies, compromised immune systems, birth defects, mood or anxiety disorders, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder should provide a specific medical clearance before being allowed to participate. A plan should be provided on how to deal with such problems.
  • Campers should be in compliance with recommended immunization schedules published yearly by the AAP.

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