Ensuring Your Child is a
Happy Camper this Summer
BY DR. RACHEL GERONEMUS
Summer camp season is coming, and parents are concerned regarding their child’s health.
Dr. Rachel Geronemus, a pediatrician at Scarsdale Medical Group, notes that most – though not all – camps ask for proof that a child has had a full physical examination before attending. New York state law mandates that any student new to a school have a current physical examination. Those already enrolled are required to get a current physical every two years through grade 10. A “current” physical exam is defined by the New York State Department of Health as “an exam that has been dated and signed by your child’s Health Care Provider and completed no earlier than within one year prior to the beginning of the current school year’s starting date. Exams completed prior to that date will not fulfill the requirements.”
As for the health screenings, those can be performed by either the pediatrician or a school nurse; it includes a vision check, height, weight, blood pressure and scoliosis screening.
Most camps will accept a form submitted by the healthcare provider that the camper has fulfilled their physical exam requirements. Dr. Geronemus recommends an annual physical for ages 2 and up to maintain good health and as a way of picking up signs that could indicate existing or developing conditions that may be cause for concern.
Allergies are an issue for many children, with asthma – according to the CDC, about 6 million children in the U.S. aged 0-17 have asthma – while about 5.2 million suffer from hay fever. In such cases, you may want your child to carry an inhaler. If the child takes medication, they must be dispensed by a camp official, usually its onsite health director.
If your child is taking medication of any kind, be sure that they have a sufficient supply to get them through the day (or, if they’re going to a sleepaway camp, for their entire stay). Prescriptions should be filled well before camp begins.
Insects will also be in attendance. If your child has been diagnosed with anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction to bug bites/stings (typically from bees) that could be life-threatening – they likely already carry an epinephrine auto-injector, such as an EpiPen that should be used immediately. Such tools can also be used in cases of acute allergic reactions to foods and other substances. Camps are required to file full reports with the state whenever epinephrine is administered.
As for the ever-present worry about Lyme disease from a tick bite, or the latest disease carried by mosquitos, Dr. Geronemus says the Hospital has seen few serious cases over the past several years. Lyme can take at least 36 hours to manifest itself, so careful body checks for ticks and bites are a good idea. Likewise, if a tick is attached for greater than 36 hours or for an unknown length of time, the Hospital considers treating a child with prophylactic antibiotics.
Sunscreen is always important during the summer months. You should check with your pediatrician or a dermatologist as to what kind is best for your child, how often they should reapply, etc. Camp can be even more physically taxing than school, so if your child is likely to be going on long hikes or otherwise will be in the sun for extended periods, be sure they have the appropriate sunscreen with them.
If your child has been diagnosed with COVID, observe the standard protocols before sending them off to camp. If your child has had a moderate to severe case of COVID in the past, consult with their physician as to whether there are extra precautions you should take. Very few kids will require another screening, but it is always a good idea to be sure.
Lastly, when it comes to injuries sustained at camp, studies have shown only two reported major illnesses or injuries for every 1,000 kids. The most common mishap is a stomachache or bug that a child could just as easily have acquired at home.
By taking these steps, you can ensure that your child, as well as those they will be interacting with, will indeed be happy campers.
Dr. Rachel Geronemus is a pediatrician at Scarsdale Medical Group, seeing patients at 600 Mamaroneck Avenue, Suite 300, Harrison. To schedule an appointment, call 914-989-1111.