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How to prepare your child for summer camp

Summer camp is a wonderful experience for many children. Whether they attend a day camp or sleepaway camp, they’ll learn new skills, meet people from other walks of life and gain a taste of independence.

If your child is headed to camp this summer, here are some tips from Jonathan Schuh, M.D., a Piedmont pediatrician, to help them have a healthy, safe and fun experience.

Schedule a pre-camp physical

Dr. Schuh says most camps require children to have a physical within six to 12 months of attending camp, depending on their age. He recommends reaching out to your child’s health care provider at least a month before they go to camp.

“The camp physical is the same as your regular checkup,” he says. “Many doctors will be happy to fill out camp forms at the same visit as the regular checkup, though some may require a separate visit.”

During a pre-camp physical, your child’s physician will review their medications, allergies, hearing, vision and any health conditions they have. They’ll also ensure your child has all of their required immunizations before attending camp.

Dr. Schuh says the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 and up.

“COVID-19 is still around and will be for the foreseeable future,” he says.

How kids can stay healthy and safe at summer camp

“There are three rules I tell my patients during every visit,” says Dr. Schuh. “Wash your hands, don’t touch your face and don’t eat or drink after your friends.”

He encourages parents to have a conversation with their kids before they head off to camp. Encourage them to:

  • Wash their hands after going to the bathroom and before eating or touching their face.

  • Apply sunscreen every two hours when outdoors.

  • Keep a water bottle with them and stay hydrated.

  • Apply bug spray if they’ll be outdoors in an area with insects.

  • Not share helmets, hats, brushes or pillows with others.

Questions parents should ask their child’s summer camp

“I recommend that parents ask the camp what their basic policies are about sunscreen and staying hydrated,” says Dr. Schuh. “Many kids are playing hard and don’t slow down to take water breaks or reapply sunscreen.”

He also recommends asking who will deliver health care at the camp and if they’ll have a doctor or nurse available if someone is injured or sick.

Dr. Schuh says it’s also a good idea to ask about their swimming requirements. If your child will be around a lake, pool or ocean, he recommends that they attend swimming lessons beforehand.

What to pack when your child goes to summer camp

In addition to the items on the camp’s packing list, Dr. Schuh recommends including the following in their bag:

  • Their prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as allergy medicine, an inhaler or an epinephrine auto-injector. If they’ll be gone for three weeks, for example, pack a three-week supply of their medications.

  • Sunscreen

  • Bug spray

  • Hand sanitizer

If your child might get homesick, consider packing a memento from home, such as a family photo or favorite toy.

What to do if your child is anxious about going to camp

“If your child is nervous about going to camp or if it’s their first time away from home, acknowledge that it’s normal to have homesickness,” says Dr. Schuh. “Talk to them about this in advance. Let them know the camp can always get in touch with you if something is wrong.”

And remind them that camp is all about having fun, making friends and learning new skills.

“Summer camp is a great way for kids to indulge in interests they may not have time for during the school year,” says Dr. Schuh.

If you have questions about your child’s health, camp readiness or pre-camp physical, talk to their pediatrician or family medicine provider. Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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