Thousands of children attend camp each year to enjoy new
experiences and challenges, and whether they are canoeing, coding or creating
art, they should be greeted with a positive, safe and healthy environment.
In an updated policy statement, the American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP) offers recommendations to help families, physicians and camp
administrators prepare for camp and make sure children’s health needs are
considered, regardless of the setting.
The policy statement, “Improving Health and Safety at Camp,”
published in the July 2019 issue of Pediatrics (published online June 17),
breaks down guidance on immunizations, food allergies, and handling medications
and health records, and is supported by the American Camp Association and
Association of Camp Nursing.
“The camp experience can be tremendously rewarding and
confidence-boosting,” said Michael Ambrose, MD, FAAP, lead author of the
statement, produced by the AAP Council on School Health. “You will want to
match the child’s interests, skills, and physical and emotional well-being with
a camp that offers the best fit.”
All children should undergo a pre-camp health evaluation,
according to the AAP. Parents need to be informed of the scope of health services
available at the camp, and they are encouraged to discuss any special health
needs with camp leadership in advance.
The AAP also recommends:
All campers should be
immunized according to the recommended vaccine schedule. Camps should
eliminate nonmedical exemptions for vaccines.
Campers should be
instructed in the use of personal emergency medications or medical
devices, such as inhalers or epinephrine auto-injectors, before arrival at
should review local regulations for stocking unassigned epinephrine and
other emergency medications for seizures, diabetes or opioid overdose.
Specific protocols and training should be in place, and the devices should
be kept in locations that are easily accessible to those who need them.
All camps should have an
automated external defibrillator (AED) on site.
Because about 8% of
children have food allergies, camps should create and provide their food
allergy policies to families in advance and discuss those policies with
records are strongly recommended to reduce errors and improve risk
The camp should establish health policies and protocols that
have been approved by a pediatrician or family physician. All camps need to
have personnel on-site who can administer first aid. Administrators should form
relationships with the community’s emergency medical services and local dental
and mental health specialists, according to the AAP.
Approximately 14 million children supported by 1.5 million
staff attend day and resident camps in the United States.
“Having a plan in place – and making sure that staff are
properly trained – will help everyone feel more relaxed and eager to enjoy the
experience,” Dr. Ambrose said. “A healthy camper is a happy camper.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org and follow us on Twitter @AmerAcadPeds