Coram is Proud to Support Local Camps
Summer camp! For kids who have attended a hemophilia summer camp before, this is the week they’ve waited for all year. To quote one young camper, “This is better than Christmas!”
Consider the fact that hemophilia is a rare disease and many youngsters are the only one in their entire peer group — or town — with the condition; then they arrive at camp where all the kids have bleeding disorders.
“You can just feel how cohesive and happy they are,” says Diana Mathis, Health Center director for Camp Bold Eagle in Michigan. “They are part of something important here, and it’s so empowering. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s just incredible.”
Parents, however, are often not as thrilled to send their child to a camp in the woods miles from home and away from their watchful eyes. Bumps, scrapes and mosquito bites can happen — maybe even a tick or two — but the risk is worth the experience for the child. Some will even earn the Big Stick Award for learning to infuse themselves for the first time. Parents can give themselves more peace of mind by proactively preparing their children for camp.
Helpful Tips When Sending Your Child to Camp
Following these simple steps can help reduce the risks for injury and illness:
- Teach them to wash their hands for a minimum of 30 seconds with soap, warm water and friction before and after meals and after using the bathroom.
“That’s the most important thing parents can do,” Mathis says. “Much of camp food is hand held — hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, nachos and s’mores. We have a little song that the kids can sing or hum while they wash their hands so they know how many seconds they should wash. The song tells them to use soap, warm water and friction.”
If the camp does not have running hot and cold water, children still need to know to use the hand pump and be liberal with the hand sanitizer. Sanitation is important in the camp environment where the kids are living in close quarters in tents or cabins.
- Send them to camp well rested.
"The activity level at camp is a lot higher than what they're used to," Mathis says. "They go, go, go all day long. They get tired and may be more likely to trip. Our counselors are trained to watch for signs of a child being overly tired, and we build an hour of rest into every day when the kids have to be off their feet."
- Make sure they have good, supportive, close-toed shoes.
“It’s hilly and there are tree roots, so good, supportive shoes are important. Also, don’t forget clothes to protect them from the elements, like sweatshirts.”
Most, if not all summer camps, supply parents with a list of clothing and other miscellaneous items to pack for camp.
- Reinforce the importance of telling a counselor if they feel ill or have a bleed.
"That's important because the kids are having so much fun they don't want to miss anything. Having something like diarrhea may not be information they want to pass on to a counselor."
- Show them how to examine themselves for ticks.
“We have showers, so the kids can check for ticks at that time, but some camps don’t have those facilities.”
Parents should know that summer camps are licensed by the state in a manner similar to day-care facilities, so there are safety guidelines the camps must follow. Most hemophilia camps go beyond the minimal require-ments for things like staffing ratios of counselors, nurses and emergency preparation. However, parents can and should ask their particular camp director if they are licensed and what guidelines they follow.
- Make sure the camp staff knows if there have been any changes in health status between the time the parent submitted the health form and the start of camp.
"If the child has a bleed that needs to be treated every day, and the health form they submitted six months earlier states they get treatment once a week, that's important for us to know," Mathis explains. "We use the health forms to staff our camp appropriately. The ratio of nurses to campers, for example, depends on the campers' ages, whether there are kids on prophylaxis, or if there are kids with particularly bad joints or inhibitors."
Most camps have a plan in place in case of an illness outbreak or other emergency situation. Check with your child’s camp to find out about their specific policies and procedures.
For children, summer camp is a time for exploration, learning, sharing, and growing. Parents can expect to hear about their child’s adventures at camp for the rest of the summer!