Living Well

Camp Health and Safety

Last updated: Apr 30, 2013

Summer camp can be a great opportunity for your child to experience independence. In addition to developing new relationships with other kids and adults without your influence, your child will decide what to eat, what to wear, when to bathe and brush teeth, and what to do when problems arise. Although these decisions are important steps children take toward establishing their independence, they can overwhelm young children who are new to being on their own.

To help make camp a successful experience, coach your child about basic health and safety practices, including good hygiene, healthy food choices, and staying safe during camp activities. Explain the importance of asking counselors or instructors to help when a question or problem arises. Empowering your child with practical and social tools to manage while they’re away from home can positively influence personal growth and boost self-esteem.


To help prepare your child for camp, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Summit Medical Group recommend:

  • Involving your child in the decision to attend camp
  • Presenting a positive attitude about being away from home
  • Explaining that homesickness is natural and offering ways to cope such as talking with a counselor or friend

To help protect your child’s health during camp, be sure to:

  • Get your child a physical exam that includes updated vaccinations
  • Give the camp nurse a copy of your child’s medical history
  • Give the camp nurse your child’s medications and instructions for taking them
  • Alert the camp director, nurse, and counselors about your child’s health concerns

In addition, consider whether the camp’s health and safety profile are aligned with your child’s needs. If your child has food or other allergies, for example, find out if the camp has a plan for preventing contact that might lead to an allergic reaction as well as a plan to manage allergic reactions when they occur.

For overall safety, be sure your child’s camp has:

  • Access to a local 911 emergency system
    Although access to a 911 emergency system is a given at most camps, it’s wise to confirm your child’s camp has the backup it needs if a crisis arises
  • A registered nurse who is available 24/7
    A camp nurse should be on hand each day and night to address all health issues, however minor or serious
  • An infirmary for children who are sick
    Having a separate area for sick children can help prevent the spread of diseases such as summer colds and flu
  • Certified counselors
    Ask if the camp counselors have passed American Red Cross first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and water safety emergency medical training

Check the camp’s packing list carefully. Begin packing at least 2 weeks before camp and include these safety basics:

  • A first aid kit with Band-aids and an antibacterial cream such as Neosporin for minor cuts and scrapes. Explain to your child how and when it’s appropriate to use the kit
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to shade the face and prevent sunburn
  • Flip flops to avoid athlete’s foot and other fungi when showering in community stalls
  • Lightweight as well as warm clothes such as jeans, sweatshirts, and extra socks
  • Protective clothing that can prevent insect bites and contact with poison foliage
  • Comfortable, properly fitted shoes that are suited to the camp’s activities, including hiking boots, water shoes, and sneakers
  • Extra towels and washcloths so that your child won’t have to use mildewed towels that could spread fungi
  • A lifejacket for water activities if the camp does not have them
  • A flashlight and extra batteries

"If you or your child have questions or concerns about staying healthy and safe at summer camp, we're here to help," says Summit Medical Group pediatrician Michelle Bender, MD, FAAP. "In addition to offering physical exams, vaccinations, and medical approvals for summer camp, we can help your child prepare emotionally for being away from home."

For more information or to schedule an appointment,
call Summit Medical Group Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine today
at 908-273-4300.


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