The first diabetes camp opened its doors in 1925 and now there are over 100 camps in the United States serving children with diabetes. Diabetes camps are a great place for children to be independent, make friends and learn new skills. Packing properly for summer camp can minimize your fears about sending your child away and give them more confidence.
- Traditional summer camps have no diabetes focus and might not have medical professionals on staff. Diabetes camps are staffed with medical professionals who have diabetes-care experience. Often these camps incorporate diabetes self-management into regular camp activities. It is a chance for your child to learn and have fun in a safe environment. Some diabetes camps let children with diabetes bring friends or siblings as partners. The agenda typically includes outdoor activities, arts and crafts and various types of recreation. The medical staff could include physicians and nurses as well as CDEs, social workers, dietitians and medical students.
- Camp is a major change in your child’s routine and blood sugar fluctuations may occur. The goal of most diabetes camps is to help children learn good diabetes management decisions and encourage them to accomplish anything they want. The camp personnel help children with blood glucose self-monitoring, the use of insulin injections and medications. They also teach children about making good food choices. If your child is being controlled with an insulin pump to make the administration of insulin more consistent they will be monitored carefully by the staff.
- Ask the diabetes camp staff for a manual/care plan about how diabetes will be managed and what supplies need to be packed. Find out about the meal schedule and how certain accommodations can be made for your child. Talk to your health care professional about developing ways to work within the system the camp currently has in place. Your child should always carry treatment for low blood glucose even if food is not permitted in tents or cabins. Glucose tablets and small snack packs should be included in your child’s camping bag. Find out the policy about making phone calls from camp and when the camp accepts phone calls from parents. If permitted, it is a wise idea to pack a prepaid cell phone for your child to use in emergencies.
- Learn what supplies, if any, are provided by the camp. Make sure to pack insulin, medications and a blood glucose monitor with lancets. Ask who is responsible for monitoring and recording your child’s blood sugar if he cannot do it himself. If the child monitors it by themselves find out who verifies it was done on schedule. Ask where the meter and strips will be kept and how used lancets, insulin syringes, and strips are disposed of. Pack diabetes supplies accordingly.
- Pack a list to keep with your child and provide an extra copy to the camp nurse and director. The list should include symptoms of low blood glucose your child typically gets as well as other unusual symptoms. Add a list of situations when low blood sugar is more likely to happen. List treatments for lows that occur before and between meals. Explain what to do if your child resists treatment. Find out how treatment will be recorded and who it will be reported to. Find out who gives glucagon shots and where it will be kept. Provide the name and number of all the members of your child’s diabetic health care team. Also ask about ambulance service and how far it is to the nearest hospital. Find out if the hospital has a pediatric unit. Make a plan for proper insulin storage as tents and cabins are often the wrong temperature. Find out about labeling insulin and medical supplies that belong to your child. Make sure medications are never shared.
- Pack twice the amount of diabetes supplies your child might need for the camp stay, including insulin vials. Pack extra food and glucose tablets. Include several changes of underwear, pajamas and extra clothes such as shorts, jeans and t-shirts as well as a light jacket, rain gear and sweatshirt. Cotton clothing is breathable and absorbent to avoid overheating. Add a hat and sunglasses to protect your child from the sun along with SPF 30+ sunscreen and aloe gel for sunburn or dry skin. Pack two swimsuits, sturdy sandals and towels since the camp includes swimming. Include a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss to maintain proper oral hygiene. If your child has sensitive skin, pack a special soap.
- There are many excellent diabetes camps where children learn about diabetes, eat healthy meals and have a great time. CampWILD Training Camp in Boulder, CO offers diabetes education, sports skills clinics, workouts with coaches and campmates as well as delicious meals. Diabetes Training Camp in Lancaster, PA is entirely devoted to diabetes, exercise, fitness and sports education to learn more about lifestyle management. Many of the specialists have diabetes themselves. The DiabetesSisters Camp is a conference in California for women of all ages with all types of diabetes. To find out about more diabetes camps visit the Diabetes Education & Camping Association website at diabetescamps.org.
Diabetes camp is a golden opportunity for your child to become independent and learn more about proper diabetes self-management. They will develop lifestyle habits and create memories that last a lifetime. With proper planning and packing, your child can have a wonderful experience at diabetes camp.