It’s hard to believe that summer camp is just around the corner for many Lowcountry children. Each summer, thousands of children participate in a variety of camp adventures, and it’s not too early for parents to begin doing their homework to make certain their child has a safe and rewarding experience.
Homework translates to camp research that will help assure that the child is in the right place as well as provide a level of comfort for mom and dad that their child is in a camp where the staff has the experience, training and resources to handle situations that may occur.
MUSC Children’s Health physician Shana C. Bondo, a board-certified pediatrician and medical director of After Hours Care at MUSC Children’s Health, offered some good advice for parents.
Most camps require physicals depending on the type of activities that the camp is going to host.
“Many times, the child does not need an additional physical if they are up-to-date on their immunizations, and are keeping up with their well checks,” Dr. Bondo said. “The child’s primary care pediatrician can complete the form, sometimes through a phone call. They will make sure that the shots are up-to-date and assure that there are no physical concerns or worries that may limit the child’s participation in certain activities.”
If the child’s health care record is not current, then a physical will be required by a healthcare provider. In those exams she said, we are looking for a verbal history to see if the child has had any problems where they need every day medication for a certain illness or any physical limitations that could impact the type of activities occurring at camp.
Dr. Bondo said that if a child needs a sports or camp physical that all the MUSC After Hours Care Centers can accommodate those physicals. MUSC Children’s Health offers three After Hours Care locations in Mount Pleasant, North Charleston and Summerville.
Dr. Bondo provided some safety tips to prepare the child for camp. “We encounter heat-related injuries in this area, so make sure that the child is prepared with plenty of fluids to drink and sunscreen,” she said.
For a day camp, she recommended applying sunscreen 30 minutes to an hour before the child leaves for camp, and she said to be sure to pack an extra tube of sunscreen so the child can reapply it several times throughout the day.
She said it’s also important to understand the type of activities happening at the camp, to be aware of the schedule and what is being required. What are the safety mechanisms at the camp? Are they allowed water breaks? Are they alternating outside time with inside time? If a child feels overly exhausted or over heated, do they have a plan in place? Knowing this in advance, helps the parent understand what gaps they may need to fill.
“Make sure they have a snack, lunch, a large water bottle and sometimes it’s just sitting down with your child and having a conversation and telling them how important it is that they drink the water and refill the bottle throughout the day,” she said. “Let them know how important it is to refuel their body.”
For overnight camps, Dr. Bondo said it’s important for a parent to do their own screening of their child since every child matures at a different time and is ready for an independent experience at a different time.
Is the child able to go to sleep at a friend’s house or a grandparent’s house without too many missed steps? Can the child bathe themselves and dress themselves? Have they reached that level of independence to spend a week in a camp setting?
She said it is helpful to be transparent and honest with the child. Do they think they’ll be homesick? Ask if they want to meet new people or would they prefer to sign up with a buddy. If they feel sad on some particular night, what are some of the ideas you can come up with now to trouble shoot that so the child has an action plan in their head. Find out if they are going to be able to make phone calls or what kind of contact you can have with them while they are away.
If the child has special needs like asthma, diabetes, or allergies, make sure that the child is informed about their own health history and be sure the camp is informed about these special needs and requirements.
Dr. Bondo recommends determining if the camp has accreditation and if not, parents should conduct their own research to determine what safety measures exist, are camp workers screened for criminal or high risk behaviors, what nutrition and housing standards are in place, and is there an action plan for emergencies.
Parents who take the time to do research ahead of time, and prepare their child for camp will help to assure a good experience for their child.
To learn more about sending a child off to camp or to learn more about the MUSC Children’s Health After Hours Care locations, visit musckids.org/locations or call 843-792-2222.