Schools out and the weather is warm-must be time for camp! What if your child has reflux? You might have extra worries and concerns about sending your child with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) to camp:
· Will my child have access to her medication?
· Will she be able to eat the foods she needs and avoid reflux trigger foods?
· Is there a nurse of trained medical provider?
· Should she go to a day camp or a sleep away camp?
· What if she gets sick during camp?
Going to camp with reflux is a bit like sending your child to school. There are some differences though. It is likely your child will be outdoors and may interact with staff that will only have a short period of time to get to know your child before camp ends. With some advanced planning and communication with the camp staff, your child will be able to eat, sleep and play happily at camp. You may still wonder how she is doing and worry while she is away. That is your job after all. But really, she will be fine and she will have new experiences, make new friends and maybe learn a bit more about how to manage her reflux while she is away from you.
Every camp has a camp checklist, right? The list tells you what to bring, the type of clothing needed and other details. Add on your own must have items such as medication and special foods and beverages that are needed.
Before Day One
Call or email the camp to find out about the camp policy for meals, medications and other questions and concerns. You will also need to find out how to relay information about your child’s needs to the staff. Should you send an email? Talk to the counselor at the drop off? See the nurse at check in? Call the camp director?
If your child needs to take medication at camp, find out if there is a form that needs to be signed, especially if a form needs to be signed by the doctor prior to the start of camp. Often the camp wants the medication in a plastic zipper bag with the child’s name on it. If it is a prescription medication, it needs to be in the original container. Even over the counter medication needs to be in the original box or bottle so it is clear what type of medication it is and the dose.
Camp food, like cafeteria food may include grease and mystery sauces, ingredients that are sure to trigger reflux symptoms all day long. You may need to go over the menu options with the staff and provide a list of foods that are allow, avoided and limited. Try to keep it short and simple. It is likely a counselor will have a lot going on! If your child is under age five, you will need to depend on the camp staff to oversee her diet. If she is 6 or older, she should begin to participate in communicating her dietary needs. At home and at school, she should be practicing making good decisions about the foods she is eating.
If she is attending a day camp, you may need to provide her lunch and snacks. That will allow you to control the amount and types of food she eats during the day.
Remember: If she has an allergy or intolerance and the doctor has said that she needs to avoid a food or food group altogether, the adult staff need to oversee her diet and make sure she avoids those foods, regardless of her age..
Camp Pep Talk
Based on the discussion you have with the staff, you and your child will need to come up with a plan for managing reflux at camp. Let your child know who will give her medication, what to do if she is not feeling well and how to ask for assistance with making good meal choices in the mess hall. Remind her of key phrases she may need to use: I need a break, my stomach hurts. I am not able to eat ___. What is in the mystery meat casserole?
My daughter needed extra small meals, frequent snacks and water breaks at camp to manage her reflux. If she attended a day camp, it was easy to pack extra foods. I think all of the campers were hungry all of the time and took frequent meal breaks. At sleep away camp, she had fewer meal choices and often ended up eating carbohydrates (dry cereal, bread, rolls) all week. Somehow she survived it all. And like every other child who goes to camp, she met new friends, had amazing adventures, skinned her knee and complained about how bad the food was! And I only worried a little bit!
Published On: July 10, 2010