If you’ve already decided where your children will be attending camp this summer, it’s time to think about how best to prepare them for a fun, healthy and safe experience away from home.

From determining what to pack to obtaining a camp physical, there’s a lot to consider. And it’s only natural for both parents and campers to have some anxiety, especially for first-timers and those who cope with chronic health issues. To have the best and healthiest summer, here are some key recommendations.

Learn the camp’s health policies

Start by taking some time to review and understand the camp’s health care policies and practices well in advance. This information should be readily available on the camp’s website or in your camper’s registration materials. If you can’t find it, make a list of questions and call the camp staff to obtain the answers you need.

Most camps will require a physical with medical records submitted several weeks prior to arrival. It doesn’t take a lot of time to complete this physical, but don’t wait until the last minute to schedule an appointment.

Camp physicals can be obtained from your child’s pediatrician or at a walk-in retail clinic. Health care insurance providers will not cover camp and sports physicals, so be sure to inquire about the cost before you visit. Prices can vary quite a bit.

A proper camp physical should include: a review of health history and immunizations, height and weight check, thorough physical exam, and a stamp or signature on exam forms. Parents should remember to bring a copy of their child’s immunization records and a list of any current medications or allergies.

Factor in chronic health issues

Health conditions like asthma, diabetes, serious food allergies or other health concerns should also be factored into your preparations.

Ahead of time, contact the camp staff to see how medications or treatments are handled. It is important to determine what care can be expected from the camp nurse or athletic trainer (in the case of sports camps) and what medications your child can administer on his or her own. This could include inhalers for asthma treatment, insulin injections and other prescription or over-the-counter medications.

If your child has food allergies, then speak with the camp nutritionist or cook to ensure that menus are tailored to meet dietary requirements. If your child has a peanut allergy or is allergic to insect stings, determine whether your camper can carry his or her own EpiPen, or how one will be made available. Make sure camp counselors are equipped with an extra auto-injector on site and are trained to administer care.

Make a packing list

Begin early by putting together a camp packing list. Some of the must-have items for your child’s duffel bag are: hiking boots or sneakers; slip-resistant water shoes for showers and pool; lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants for hikes and activities (to protect against ticks, poison ivy and the sun’s rays); antibiotic ointment and Band-Aids for cuts and blisters; hand sanitizer or antiseptic wipes for easy cleanup; lip balm; and necessary eye care items including sunglasses, goggles for sports or swimming, extra contact lenses or glasses.

For sunblock, you should choose a broad-spectrum product with a SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of UVA and UVB rays with spray and stick options for easier application. Insect repellents (without DEET) are available in spray or wipe options.

Careful planning and preparation should help to ensure a safe and fun camp experience full of great memories for your child. JN

Michelle Hockstra is a mother of two living in Brookeville, Maryland. She is a family nurse practitioner at MinuteClinic in Rockville, Maryland.

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