Summer camps gives children with diabetes a chance to unwind and be kids for awhile after the demands of school have ended. Whether your child goes to a diabetes camp or a regular one they are fantastic places to socialize, learn new skills and become more independent. Discover how to prepare for summer camp and pack properly to reduce your fears about sending your child with diabetes away for a few days or weeks.
- Choosing a camp is a parent’s first challenge. The first diabetes camp was opened in 1925 and now there are more than 100 diabetes camps across the country. There are definite advantages to choosing dedicated diabetes camps. They are staffed with medical professionals who know how to take care of children with diabetes. Some camps even teach children about diabetes self-management. Whether you decide to send your child to a diabetes camp or a regular one, inquire about the available medical facilities and how they would handle diabetes emergencies. The staff should include physicians and nurses and may also include dietitians, social workers and CDEs. Ask about the camp’s agenda. Consider what activities your child prefers, such as art, music or sports. Try to find a camp that offers these activities as well as outdoor activities, recreation and crafts so your child has a good time. The camp you choose should be accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA) to ensure adequate medical staff is available and safety precautions are considered. Visit the Diabetes Education & Camping Association website to learn more about diabetes camps. Take a personal tour of the camp before deciding to send your child there. Often they will supply a video showing the camp in action as well.
- Once you choose a camp, make sure the staff and your child understand the change in routine may cause blood sugar fluctuations. Based on your child’s age, educate him or her about proper diabetes management, including blood sugar monitoring and taking medications, such as insulin. Discuss your child’s diabetes self-management plan with the staff so they understand it. Younger children may require more assistance from staff members. Find out who will be helping your child and provide all necessary medication, supplies and information in case of emergencies. If your child uses an insulin pump make sure there is a staff member well versed in its operation. Have the child practice settings prior to attending camp. Make sure the staff understands the need to monitor your child more carefully.
- Eating choices can make a difference when your child has diabetes. Inquire about the daily menu at the camp to ensure they serve healthy and fresh foods. Choose a camp that serves a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grain breads and pasta, lean meat, fish and low-fat dairy products. Make sure they have appropriate treat foods as well. Let the staff know if your child has specific dietary restrictions. Review proper eating habits with your child so there is no confusion. Consider scheduling a consultation for your child with a dietitian or a diabetes nurse educator before camp starts. A diabetes camp often has a diabetes educator on-staff to teach children about making informed food choices.
- Request the manual or care plan the staff uses regarding the management of diabetes. Ask what additional supplies should be packed. Your child should always carry glucose tablets for hypoglycemia even if food is not allowed in the bunks. Give your child a prepaid cell phone to contact you during emergencies. Find out the present policy about making in and out bound phone calls from camp.
- You will need to pack supplies for your child, such as a blood glucose monitor with lancets, medication and insulin. Find out which staff members verify blood sugar monitoring and medications are administered to your child on-schedule. Ask where diabetes supplies will be kept to ensure they are stored at the proper temperature. Find out about how strips, lancets and insulin syringes are disposed of.
- Give the camp director and nurse a list of your child’s basic diabetes needs. The list should include emergency contact numbers, contact information for all medical providers, prescriptions, supplies, symptoms of low blood glucose and when low blood sugar is more likely to occur. Include treatments for low blood sugar and how to work with your child if he or she resists treatment. Find out who administers glucagon shots and where they are kept. Research ambulance service in the area and the distance to the nearest local hospital. Discuss labeling medical supplies and the need to store them at the right temperature. Verify medications are will never be shared.
- Always pack twice the amount of supplies your child needs. Beyond diabetes necessities, make sure to pack the right daily items for your child. The camp will generally send a list stating other required items.
Summer camp gives your child an opportunity to learn, become more independent and have fun. Diabetes camps can also teach children about self-management and healthy lifestyle habits. With planning and preparation, your child can have a safe and happy summer!
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