Summer camp is a chance for children to have fun, learn, and gain a sense of independence. Parents may be concerned about their well-being with diabetes when they are at camp. Learn more about summer camp for kids with diabetes and how to make it a healthy and happy experience.
All Types of Summer Camps
There are all types of summer camps including general ones, camps focused on arts and music, and sports camps. There are also diabetes summer camps, which are just like traditional ones with activities such as hiking, nature-watching, arts and crafts and swimming. The major difference is your child will be with other kids who have diabetes and staff that is experienced in treating diabetes. Trained medical staff is on-hand to provide diabetes care as needed. This can give parents peace of mind knowing there are professionals available to take care of emergencies and other possible diabetes-related situations. This can be a great option for children who are going away to summer camp for the first time.
Check Out the Summer Camp
All summer camps are not created equal. Verify the camp is accredited by the American Camping Association. These camps have medical staff and take necessary safety precautions. Visit the camp and talk to the medical director about the treatment provided to campers with diabetes. Inquire about how often blood glucose levels are checked, how the storage and administration of insulin is handled, and what the procedures are in an emergency situation. Find out how close the nearest hospital is to the camp. Tour the facilities and meet the camp director. Find out if they conduct background checks on the staff. Verify the camp is fully staffed with counselors, lifeguards, nurses, medical professionals, and dietitians. The staff should follow the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines for proper care of diabetes at camp. You and your child should feel comfortable at the camp to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
Learning to Deal With Diabetes
A major advantage of diabetes summer camps is that kids get to be with others who have the condition and learn how to monitor it on their own. These camps are typically held by the ADA and more than 100 of them exist today. They learn about diabetes from experts and each other. Day camps are available for little ones and sleep-away camp options exist for kids who are ages 7 to 18. During camp, they learn how to log their blood sugar levels and administer insulin independently. This helps them make the transition from parent-management to self-management. They also participate in a variety of activities ranging from shows and theatre to sporting competitions. These experiences create memories they will treasure for years to come. They get a chance to make new friends, learn how to manage diabetes on their own and engage in a variety of physical activities to boost their confidence.
Diabetes Camp Versus Traditional Camp
Choosing a camp should be based on your child’s interests as well as protecting his or her well-being. Consider whether it is the first time your child has been away from home and the age of your child. If you child does not yet check his or her blood glucose and does not recognize when it is time to have a meal or snack, a diabetes camp will teach them about these self-management strategies. If your child is older and has good control over diabetes self-management, a traditional camp is a viable alternative. For some parents, the cost might be a determining factor. Ask about financial aid or scholarships to diabetes camps. Applying early can help you gain access to these benefits before they are taken and secure your child’s spot at the camp.
Getting Ready for Camp
Ask if the camp has a written manual about how diabetes will be managed at the facility. Ask your child’s diabetes health care team for suggestions. Share them with the camp director, nurse or another authorized staff member. The camp director and other key personnel should know exactly what your child needs while he or she is at camp. This includes meal times, carrying treatments for low blood sugar at all times, and whether food and snacks are permitted in the cabins. Special accommodations might need to be made for your child. Ask about the meals being served and whether snacks are readily available. Stress the importance of your child having an evening snack each night. Some camps might permit your child to bring healthy snacks from home.
Review Medical Situations With the Staff
Inquire about the camp’s policy about accepting phone calls from parents. Find out who is responsible for monitoring and recording your child’s blood glucose and ketone testing if he or she cannot do it. If your child can do it, determine who will verify it is done on time as well as where the meter and strips will be kept and how lancets and strips are disposed of. Make sure the staff can recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and what to do in the event of low blood glucose. List the symptoms and treatments on the care list you provide to the staff. Find out how treatment is recorded and reported as well as whether someone can administer glucagon if needed. Create a plan for insulin storage, injections, and adjustments. Insulin should be refrigerated as the temperature in tents and backpacks can get quite high. Determine which staff member(s) will keep an eye on your child’s insulin and/or medication administration. With all the excitement at camp, even conscientious kids may forget. If your child uses an insulin pump make sure to send plenty of extra pump supplies. Keep in mind insulin dosages may need to be reduced due to the increased physical activity. Find out how decisions about insulin doses will be communicated to you and who will make them. Give the camp a list of all diabetes supplies your child might need during his or her stay and double it to ensure there are enough supplies on-hand. This includes insulin vials, glucose tablets, and many other necessities.
Clothing and Toiletries Matter
Finally, remember to pack plenty of breathable cotton tees, shorts, pants, underwear, and socks along with sneakers, walking shoes or boots, and water shoes. Include two swimsuits so one can be drying while your child wears the other. Find out how laundry is handled at summer camp. Pack toiletries such as shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, toothbrush, and toothpaste as well as sunscreen and insect repellent. Pack a hat and sunglasses to protect them from the sun.
With some planning and preparation, summer camp can be a wonderful experience for kids with diabetes. Both of you get some freedom to enjoy the summer and your child learns how to be independent. Now all you need to do is relax and let your kid have a great time at camp!