Keeping Your Child Safe at Camp
For millions of kids, summer camp is a great adventure, filled with exciting opportunities and new places to explore. Approximately 10 million U.S. children attend overnight or day camps every year, according the American Camp Association, and in most cases, they suffer no more than a mild sunburn or a skinned knee. However, no environment is completely risk free, and on rare occasions, accidents happen. When sending your kids off to camp, follow these precautionary steps to ensure their wellbeing.
Know the Risks
Of course, most children are susceptible to mosquito bites, poison ivy, and the occasional upset stomach, but other issues, such as homesickness, can occur. By knowing the risks, you can better prepare yourself and your child.
- Illnesses. The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that 68 percent of camp infirmary visits were due to illnesses, 11.8 percent of which were communicable and seen in multiple children at camp. Since most kids sleep in close quarters while they're at camp, illnesses can spread quickly and easily. Make sure your child has received all recommended vaccines, including the meningitis vaccine, before going to camp.
- Injuries. The same study concluded that the remaining 32 percent of infirmary visits were the result of injuries. Of those, scrapes and cuts accounted for 33 percent, fractures 14.6 percent, and sprains 10.4 percent. Horseback riding and capture the flag caused the most injuries.
While no one wants to be considered a pushy parent, there are a few questions you should ask the camp's facilities and accommodations:
- Is the camp accredited? If a camp is accredited (by an organization such as the American Camp Association), that means it will have passed an initial safety assessment, and you can be assured that they are assessed continually.
- Does the camp screen its staff? Find out what the camp looks for in counselors and what its screening process involves. Knowing that the staff have passed a thorough background check will give you some peace of mind.
- What's the staff-to-camper ratio? Normally, the counselor-to-camper ratio varies due to the age and needs of the children. Generally, more counselors should be available to supervise younger children. For overnight camps, the ACA requires a ratio of one staff member to every five campers ages 4 and 5 and one staff member to every six campers ages 6 to 8.
- How can the camp ensure the safety of your child? It's a difficult task for camp personnel to prove safety over the phone, but it's an important question to ask nonetheless. Whoever you speak with should be able to answer your questions-including what safety precautions are taken during activities, what happens if there's an accident, and what are the qualifications of the staff-with confidence and assurance. What are the discipline procedures like? If your child or other campers are acting up, what policies does the camp have in place to discipline them? Are they fair? Will the counselors provide adequate supervision?
As a parent, you have the right to know who will be working with your child, their qualifications, how old they are, and so on. Make sure the counselors are giving you direct and thorough answers to any follow-up questions you may have, and consider this an indication of how much attention the camp will give your child. If you don't like the answers you're given, it's okay to look for another camp.
Many children have individual needs, and it's smart to inform the camp about any medical conditions or behavioral problems your child may have.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that parents provide the camp with the following information:
- Previous illnesses;
- Any surgeries;
- Allergies (food, insects, animals);
- Present state of physical and psychological health;
- Medications; and
- Emergency contacts.
If your child has a serious disability or ailment, provide the camp with information about how to deal with special situations. Keep the information short and to the point.
Sign Up for Free Newsletters
Ask Your Doctor the RIGHT Questions!
the most from your doctor visit.
Emailed right to you!
The Ask Your Doctor email series
may contain sponsored content.
18+, US residents only please.
Explore Original Articles About...
Get the MOST from QualityHealth
- Top Searches
- 1. Arthritis Management: Nature Heals
- 2. 5 Digestive To-Dos
- 3. Men: Should You Shave It or Leave It?
- 4. Today's Top Fitness Trends
- 5. Sugar and Osteoarthritis : The Link
- 6. Can't Afford Your Hospital Bills?
- 7. Stay Energized All Day Long
- 8. Phobias: Who Has Them and Why?
- 9. What If Your EpiPen Fails?
- 10. 5 Costly Medical Billing Mistakes
- 1. Ice Falls Can Cause Serious Injuries
- 2. Can Inactivity Act Like a Disease?
- 3. Kale Snack Recipe for Diabetics
- 4. How Running Affects Arthritis
- 5. Sugar and Your Immunity System
- 6. Do Weight Loss Supplements Work?
- 7. 5 Super Foods for Spring
- 8. The Hazards of Reusable Bags
- 9. How to Avoid Ingrown Hairs
- 10. Health Tip: Constantly Change Shoes
- 1. 4 Common Treatments for Epilepsy
- 2. What Does a Urogynecologist Do?
- 3. GERD Without Heartburn? It's Possible
- 4. Graston Technique: Can It Work on You?
- 5. Music Therapy Can Help Autism
- 6. 8 Ways to Fight MS-Related Fatigue
- 7. Can You Still Bleed After Menopause?
- 8. Be Your Own Health Care Advocate
- 9. Why Is Syphillis on the Rise?
- 10. Ideal Weight vs. Happy Weight
The material on the QualityHealth Web site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment provided by a physician or other qualified health provider. See additional information.