Summer camp success starts with these health tips

Singing by the campfire, swimming and boating in the warm afternoon, arts and crafts with new friends … overnight camps can be the highlight of any young child’s summer vacation. However, preparing a camper for a first-time experience can sometimes feel overwhelming for both the child and parent. We asked a couple pediatric specialists within Northern Light Health about some of the top considerations to keep in mind when preparing your young one for sleep away camp.

Make fun the main ingredient
It can be easy for parents to get anxious about placing their child’s care in the hands of another. However, the main ingredient to any sleepover summer camp experience should be fun. Renee Fournier, DO, a pediatrician at Northern Light Pediatrics in Presque Isle shares it’s important to prepare but it’s also okay to let them spread their wings and enjoy a little independence. She shares, “Let your kids just go have FUN; try really hard to not require constant contact with them.”

Sunscreen and insect repellent
Bug bites and sunburns can certainly put a damper on the summertime fun. So, it’s very important to make sure your child is equipped with both sunscreen and insect repellent. Shannon Marchegiani, MD, physician and chief of Pediatrics, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, urges parents to review sun safety with their children prior to camp. “Make sure to not only go over the importance of repeated sunscreen application but also what clothing is appropriate when out in the sun as well. Broad spectrum sunscreen along with hats, sunglasses, and light-weight sun protective clothing will prevent from getting fried in the summer sun.”

Medication and allergy considerations
Dr. Marchegiani says it is common for parents to be nervous about necessary medications for children and ensuring prescriptions are given when they should throughout the day. “It’s normal to be concerned about making sure children are given medications when they are supposed to. Timeliness of behavioral health medications can also be very important. While camps are quite used to managing medications, it might help any parent feel at ease to make sure they have a way to reach the camp if they have concerns or questions.” Also, when it comes to allergies, be sure to replicate what would occur in school in the camp environment.

Home sickness and separation anxiety
All kids are different – some children may be over the moon excited for camp while others may be quietly nervous. Parents and guardians know their children best and whether their child may be ready for an overnight camp experience. It can be okay to start small, and Dr. Fournier says, “For some children, it might be helpful to experience overnights closer to home first, such as sleepovers with a friend, so going to camp isn’t their first experience away from home.” Dr. Marchegiani also shares some helpful things that can be packed or done ahead of time if a child or parent is concerned about home sickness:

  • Write a series of notes where a child can open a note from home each day.
  • Send the child with family photos as reassurance.
  • Work with the child to make a plan for anxiety, what tools may help them, and what they can do to manage nervous feelings or homesickness.

With the right amount of preparation and planning, your child will be more than ready for their summer adventure away from home. In fact, they may find their week away flies by, but what they will take back home with them are memories to last a lifetime.

Need to get a physical for your child before they head off to camp? Visit our Provider Finder and book an appointment with an available provider now.