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Summer camp for a child living with Diabetes: How to choose the best camp and what supplies to bring

Summer Fun!

“No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks!”

That was a phrase my friends and I grew up yelling on the last day of school. Summer break evokes a lot of different emotions. Excitement to not have to wake up early or meeting up with friends at camp. The freedom to stay up late and play outside with friends.

However, summer break may present different challenges and emotions for a family living with a child with type 1 diabetes. If school is over, structure can go down the tubes. School provides structure, and for a child with type 1 diabetes, and is often a factor in their daily diabetes management. In school, lunch, recess and gym are typically set at similar times throughout the day. In addition, these activities are often managed and followed by a school nurse.

I have provided some suggestions on how to allow a child with diabetes to have a happy, healthy, and fun transition into summer if camp is on the agenda!

at summer camp

Do your homework on summer camps!

Does your child plan to attend a traditional day/overnight camp or a Diabetes camp?

  1. Traditional day/overnight camp:

    It is important to know if the camp has a professionally trained nurse or trainer who can assist with daily Diabetes management. Are they able to safely administer insulin, use an insulin pump and manage hyper/hypoglycemia treatment?

    If a professional nurse or trainer is on staff, presenting them with the medical “camp management plan” is necessary. Arranging a meeting to discuss the specific needs of your child/teen is highly recommended. Even if a professional is on-site, the camp counselors working with the child playing field games or in the pool will also need to be trained on basic blood glucose monitoring, recognizing low blood sugar, and having appropriate treatment readily available. If the camper wears a glucose sensor, allowing the professional nurse/trainer to follow that data during the day or night is very helpful. Most parents are also able to follow the child’s sensor data as well.

    Camp staff need to be aware of specific glucose monitors, sensors, insulin pumps and treatment for hypoglycemia and severely low blood sugar. If the professional nurse/trainer is not confident in managing the special technology or management plan, it will be necessary to arrange formal training with the staff, caregiver, and diabetes educator.

    What if there is not a professional staff member available at the camp?

    Often the local camp or camp your child wants to attend may not have a professional nurse or trainer on site. It is important to confirm if various staff are willing to learn the most important skills to safely care for your child or teen. It will be necessary to coordinate an official training session amongst all caregivers involved with the camper during the season. This training can take place in person, virtually or as a group session as provided by the Juvenile Diabetes Association.

    Foundations that provide Caregiver/Camp Counselor Training:

    Collaborating with your diabetes educator and camp staff is an important step. Creating a “camp management plan”, like the management plan used during the school year is necessary. Involvement from the primary caregiver is essential even after training occurs to assist staff with any questions throughout the camp day. In addition, it is necessary to train more than one staff member, as there can be turnover or absences throughout the summer. If the trained staff member(s) are not on site, a backup plan for possibly not attending camp that day may be necessary.


2. What About Diabetes Camps?

Typically, the experience a child or teen has spending time at a diabetes camp can increase confidence in many daily management skills.

Children and teens are inspired by learning from their peers, which aids in their ability to feel more independent. Confidence and independence will assist in overall better diabetes management and control.

In addition, diabetes camps offer children and teens to meet friends who are also living with diabetes. Campers are traditionally arranged in groups according to age. Some camps may offer a family camp as well. Caregivers/counselors are often diabetes educators, medical residents and nurses who are actively caring for the campers but also gaining more knowledge on the daily life of a child living with diabetes.  Many teenagers often find their years at camp were so influential that they apply to be a future counselor themselves.

There is typically a cost to attend diabetes camp and often depends on the number of weeks attending. I would recommend researching the camp to see if there are available scholarships. In addition, utilizing the sites below may offer additional assistance.

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