Newly published summer camp health guideline advises parents, camp directors

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In just a few short weeks, 10 million American children will start heading off to summer camp. But before they go, health experts are issuing strong new advice to both parents and camp directors, and recommending new precautions to protect campers' health.

For instance, the experts say, parents should make sure to ask camp officials now what kinds of health services, including emergency response, their child's camp has in place. Campers should provide, and camps should require, a full health exam and list of any medications that campers use -- and let children have immediate access to emergency drugs for asthma and allergies. And parents shouldn't see camp as a time to give kids a "holiday" from drugs for behavior issues or mental health issues.

Even homesickness, a common psychological malady for campers, can be prevented with a little effort by parents and doctors in the weeks before camp.

The new guideline, published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics, was written by a team led by a University of Michigan Health System physician who specializes in camp health. Edward Walton, M.D., FAAP, FACEP, is lead author of the paper, which is an official policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics and was produced in conjunction with the American Camp Association.

"Summer camp, whether it's day camp or sleep-away, can be a great experience for children -- but it's crucial that parents, camp officials and medical professionals work together to make it as safe and problem-free as possible for children," says Walton, a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine in the U-M Medical School who has studied camp health for 18 years. "We hope this new guideline can help with that process."

Walton and U-M colleagues recently published a study in the journal Wilderness & Environmental Medicine showing that almost half of camp health officers reported caring for children with signif

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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