It’s the time of year where parents are starting to plan summer activities for their kids (that time again, already?!). Maybe you’ve already sent off the forms for summer camp (…or the online application, I guess in this era!), or maybe you’re still considering your child’s readiness for camp—either way, it’s a good time to start figuring out how your child’s asthma will factor into the camp experience.
Choosing a Camp: Asthma Camp or Traditional Camp
Many states have asthma camps, run by organizations like the Lung Association. These camps often include asthma education components, and counselors often are asthma educators or people living with asthma themselves (several years ago, Asthma.net contributor, Dia, volunteered at an asthma camp), but are generally similar to the typical camp experience. While all camps train staff to deal with common and specific medical conditions, an asthma camp may help parents of first-time campers with asthma especially feel more assured of their child’s safety at camp.
Most if not all camps have a nurse on site to help deal with any medical issues that arise—from asthma, to poison ivy, to injuries, so there is no need to limit your choice to an asthma camp unless you want your child to benefit from the education components. Clarify with the camp director who is in charge of camper medical care and medication administration. Campers with asthma and allergies need to be able to keep their rescue inhalers and epinephrine injectors with them at all times—ensure camps do not have policies requiring medicine to be locked away or kept with a nurse. All camp staff should be trained on how to assist a child with his or her inhaler, as well as with how to recognize asthma, allergic reactions, and use an EpiPen or another epinephrine injector.
Considering the environment at camp
Asthma camps may have had more forethought into environmental triggers than traditional camps (but it’s not a given). Environmental triggers are something to especially keep in mind when choosing a camp.
Specific questions to ask before choosing a camp include:
- Does the camp have camp fires? How often? One camp I attended with a camper with a disability had fires burning throughout the day—which was not asthma friendly!
- Are there farm or stable animals present that your child is allergic to? How will animal dander, hay, or horse allergies be dealt with? How will other campers be educated to avoid tracking allergens into your child’s cabin?
- Have a plan for seasonal allergies: The camp probably can’t tell you what exact pollens or grasses are floating around, but pre-treating with a daily allergy medicine may help
- Fragrance policies: Are campers and leaders asked to leave fragrances at home to avoid reactions among people in their cabins?
- Air conditioning: Humidity can cause problems for people with asthma—some camps may have air conditioned cabins, while others may—or may not—use fans to keep campers cool at night.
Food allergies are common among kids at camp but ensure that you receive a detailed plan from the camp on how they deal with food allergies among campers. Finding out whether or not you will need to send some food, special treats, or snacks with your child in advance can ensure they have enough safe food to eat, while also making sure they are included in special events or celebrations while away from home.
Does your child with asthma go to camp? What factors—if any!—influenced your choice of camp. Let us know in the comments!