Skip to main content

Today's Family Magazine

Tips and recommendations for a safe and healthy camp experience

By Caryn Szczepinski

Now that you’ve decided where your children will be attending camp this summer, it’s time to think about how best to prepare them for a fun, healthy and safe experience away from home.

From determining what to pack, to obtaining a camp physical, there’s a lot to consider. And it’s only natural for both parents and campers to have some anxiety; especially for first-timers and those who cope with chronic health issues.

As a family nurse practitioner, I’ve completed hundreds of camp physicals and talked with parents and children as they prepare for summer. Here are some key recommendations and tips.

Health Policies and Camp Physicals
Start by taking some time to review and understand the camp’s health care policies and practices well in advance. This information should be readily available on the camp’s website or in your camper’s registration materials. If you can’t find it, make a list of questions and call the camp staff to obtain the answers you need.

Most camps will require a physical with medical records submitted several weeks prior to arrival.  It doesn’t take a lot of time to complete this physical, yet I frequently see parents and campers who wait until the last minute and are unable to obtain an appointment with a primary care provider.

Camp physicals can be obtained from your child’s pediatrician or at a walk-in retail clinic like MinuteClinic inside select CVS Pharmacy stores in northern Ohio.  Health care insurance providers will not cover camp and sports physicals, so be sure to inquire about the cost before you visit.  Prices can vary quite a bit and can be found at MinuteClinic’s website at

A proper camp physical includes: a review of health history and immunizations, height and weight check, thorough physical exam and a stamp and signature on exam forms. Parents should remember to bring a copy of their child’s immunization records and a list of any current medications and allergies.

Chronic Health Issues
If your camper has asthma, diabetes, serious allergies or other health care concerns, these are added considerations you need to factor into your preparation.

I advise parents with children who require daily medications or treatments to contact the camp in advance to understand how these are handled.  It is important to determine what care can be expected from the camp nurse or athletic trainer (in the case of sports camps) and what medications your child can administer on their own. This could include inhalers for asthma treatment, insulin injections and other prescription or over the counter medications.

If your camper has food allergies, then speak with the camp nutritionist or cook to ensure that menus are tailored to meet their dietary requirements.   And if your child has a peanut allergy or is allergic to insect stings, determine whether they can carry their own EpiPen or how one will be made available.  Make sure that camp counselors are equipped with an extra auto-injector on site and are trained to administer care.

What to Pack
Begin early by putting together a camp packing list.  Some of the items that I remind parents to include in their child’s duffel bag are:  hiking boots or sneakers (which should be broken-in ahead of time); slip-resistant water shoes for showers and pool; lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants for hikes and activities (to protect against ticks, poison ivy and the sun’s rays); antibiotic ointment and band-aids for cuts and blisters; hand sanitizer or antiseptic wipes for easy clean-up; lip balm; and necessary eye care items including sun glasses, goggles for sports or swimming, extra contact lenses or glasses.

For sun block, you should choose a broad-spectrum product with an SPF of at least 30 which blocks 97 percent of UVA and UVB rays with spray and stick options for easier application. Insect repellent (with/without DEET) are available in spray or wipe options.

Careful planning and preparation will help ensure a safe and fun camp experience full of great memories for your child.

Caryn Szczepinski is a mother residing in Geauga County and a family nurse practitioner at MinuteClinic in Chardon.  MinuteClinic offers camp physicals at locations inside select CVS Pharmacy stores throughout northeast Ohio.  Area locations can be found in Chagrin Falls, Chardon, Lyndhurst, Mayfield Hts., Solon, Twinsburg, Willoughby and Woodmere Village.