Announcements, announcements, announcements! It’s that time of the year, camp season! Whether you are a parent or a camper, getting ready for camp can be exciting but also nerve racking. Next week I am off to Camp Oasis Michigan and I have lots to do before I leave. But….being an experienced camp counselor helps with my long to-do list. Having a chronic illness and traveling anywhere can be a bit difficult. Specifically with camp, you may not have access to all of the foods and medications that you normally do.
The key is to plan, plan, plan.
Here are some tips for chronically ill (but awesome) campers and their parents before heading off to camp.
• Campers: If this is your first time at camp, congrats! I’m sure you will have an amazing time wherever you are headed. Contact your camp office and see if you can meet a camper who has experienced camp before camp even begins. This way you will get all of your questions answered and will have a friend at camp before it begins. Also find out what activities are available at camp.
• Parents: Talk to the camp director and medical staff before camp begins. Make sure the staff has all the information they need to make sure your child has an amazing time. This may include medication lists, emergency contact numbers, food restriction lists, etc.
• Campers/Parents: If you are taking medication at camp, make sure you have enough medication to get through camp and a little beyond. The last thing you want is to be scrambling for a pharmacy in the middle of the woods. Also bring extra medication in the bottles that they came in. It is always a good idea to have extra medication; better than not enough. If your child needs help taking/remembering to take their medication, ask the medical staff if they check to see if the campers take their meds or are able to administer the meds.
• Campers/Parents: Do you have diet restrictions? Let your camp know! Camp kitchens can be accommodating to many different diets. If there are specific ingredients that you can’t eat, check to see what the kitchen staff puts in the food. For example, I can’t eat garlic or onion and I asked the camp director if the grilled chicken had either of these ingredients. Even if the camp can accommodate you, I suggest bringing some snacks that you are able to eat. You never know when you will be hungry for a snack when the kitchen is closed. Many camps will allow you to store the food somewhere other than the cabins (to avoid bugs/animals)….just ask or suggest this option. If you decide to bring food to camp, plan what you want to bring a few days before you leave for camp. Go grocery shopping and get food specifically for camp. Decide if you want to bring refrigerated items like fruit or a special kind of milk. Find a small cooler in the house, stuff it with ice and place your items in there. Ask the camp if there is refrigerator access.
• Parents: Is your camper going away to camp for the first time? It’s normal for you both to be a little antsy. If your child is worried about camp, assure the camper that he or she will be fine. Talk about all of the exciting activities that your camper can look forward to. Make sure to answer your child’s questions. Contact the camp for any questions that you can’t answer. Your child may be nervous about being away from home. Think about sending a stuffed animal or blanket that comforts your child. You are probably nervous sending your kid to camp as well. Having the confidence that you child will be safe and have an incredible experience at camp will also ease your child’s anxiety. Be hesitant about visiting your child at camp. This is probably one of the few opportunities that your child will be able to be around kids his/her age that also have the same chronic illness. Let your child enjoy the experience on their own.
• Campers/Parents: HAVE FUN! Parents you are down a kid for a few days, take some time for yourself. Campers, enjoy the experience!
Chronically Awesome Camps:
CCFA Camp Oasis (kids living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease) http://www.ccfa.org/get-involved/camp-oasis/find-a-camp/
American Diabetes Association Camp Finder http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/diabetes-camp/camps/
Camp Kesem (kids with parents affected by Cancer) http://campkesem.org/find-a-camp
Asthma Camps http://www.asthmacamps.org/
Camps for kids affected by cancer http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/children/camps-and-retreats-families-and-children-affected-cancer