Summer camp is one of the more exciting things kids get to do in summer. Between nature walks, swimming and s’mores, camp is full of fun and memorable activities. However, there are also opportunities for children to get hurt or sick.
Because of this, you should find out the safety protocols of your child’s camp. Most good camps will have health policies written up that they can share.
It’s also a good idea to provide the camp with a detailed health history of your child. (You can also include a copy in your child’s suitcase.)
Below are several ways you can ensure your child has a safe and fun camp experience.
Find Out If Your Child Is Ready for Camp
The very first thing to do before signing your child up for camp is to make sure he or she is ready.
While most children (eight out of 10 campers, to be exact) report experiencing homesickness for at least one day at camp, there is a difference between feeling a little homesick and not being ready.
Just because your child is old enough for summer camp doesn’t necessarily mean he or she is emotionally ready for it. If your child hasn’t asked to go away to camp, it may be too soon. Most children will be eager and bug their parents when they’re ready to go.
It’s also important that your child doesn’t feel pressured to go to camp because an older sibling is going. Before signing up, talk to your child about his or her feelings and see if there is something underlying the usual pre-camp jitters.
Visit the Camp Beforehand
One of the best ways to get a good feel for your child’s camp is by doing a site visit before you send your little one away.
Although accidents are inevitable, knowing that the camp facilities are built well and maintained properly can put your mind at ease. Be sure to look at the playground (if there is one) to ensure everything is in good repair. Walk through any indoor facilities to see if the area is clean, safe and kid-friendly.
You should also find out what the adult-to-child ratio is at the camp. While there are no specific guidelines for camps, most daycare facilities have an 8:1 child-to-staff ratio for children ages 4 and up.
Visiting the campsite is also a great way for your child to get acclimated to the environment before attending.
Ask About Nutrition and Meals
Although this is a great practice for any parent, if your child has a food allergy, it is crucial. Find out what snacks and meals are typically served. Ask if the camp will accommodate your child’s food allergy.
If campers are allowed to bring their own food, are there any restrictions? (Many schools will ban foods, such as peanut butter, that are common allergens.)
Food handling and storage is as important. Find out how food is stored to help avoid food poisoning from items left outdoors for too long.
Teach Your Child About Proper Hydration
It’s no secret that children are at risk for getting overheated during the summer. Even though it’s the job of camp supervisors, you should still make sure your child knows the importance of drinking water throughout the day.
Describe to your child the symptoms of heat-related sickness and dehydration, like headache, dizziness, cramps, nausea, rapid heartbeat, etc., and explain what to do if he or she feels sick.
Never Allow Children to Swim Unsupervised
Teach your child to never get in the water without adult supervision or a lifeguard present—regardless of how well he or she can swim. While camp supervisors should be on watch at all times, it’s smart to reiterate this standing rule with your child.
It’s also a good idea for your child to take swim lessons prior to leaving for camp to improve skills and reinforce water safety.
Find Out If There’s a Nurse On-site
Every summer camp should have a nurse or other medical personnel on-site at all times. If your child’s camp website does not include this information, call ahead to ask.
Also find out if the counselors are CPR-certified and first-aid trained, as well as the protocol in cases of emergencies—including the location of the nearest hospital or urgent care clinic.
Pack Your Child with Adequate Sun Safety
Most children will spend hours outdoors so sun safety is critical. Be sure to pack a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF, light layers of clothing and a hat with a wide brim.
Find out if camp counselors are allowed to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. If so, a spray-on version may be best as many camps have a strict no-touching policy.
What to Do If Your Child Gets Injured at Camp
If an accident does occur, try to remain calm. For minor incidents, the on-site nurse or first-aid trained staff should be able to handle it.
In cases where your child requires additional medical care, can ask the staff to direct you to the urgent care clinic or hospital that will be treating your child.
For children at camp in the DFW area, Medical City Children’s Urgent Care is an excellent option for medical care. With four locations, our kid-friendly urgent care costs a fraction of what you would pay for an ER visit.
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.