It may be mid-winter outdoors, but it's time to think of summer fun at diabetes camp. If you have a child with diabetes, or if you have time to volunteer to help and have fun, you should be looking for a nearby diabetes camp, and signing up now.
The main reason for diabetes camps is camaraderie: some kids with diabetes might never had met another kid with diabetes before attending camp. Another reason to attend a diabetes camp is education: learning how to take better care of oneself, learning more about the latest technology, and sharing diabetes tips and tricks.
The first diabetes camp was held in 1925, and now there are camps in every state of the US, as well as in many other countries. Listings of camps are available on-line at several websites (see some examples below). If you live in another country, Google your country's name plus the phrase "diabetes camp" and you'll find more information.
Some questions about diabetes camping recur in on-line discussions, and I comment on them below...
What if my child was recently diagnosed?
Your child does not have to be able to manage all of their care to attend camp, as diabetes camps are fully supervised by physicians, nurses, and other health professionals who will assist your child with their diabetes management.
How much will it cost?
Most camps have fees, but most also have scholarships. Ask!
Will my child be at risk of having health problems?
Every child at every camp has the risk of homesickness, bug bites, and cuts and scratches. But diabetes camp has a special risk, as the diabetes camping experience is often associated with dramatically increased levels of physical activity compared to the level at home, resulting in an increased risk of hypoglycemia. Goals of diabetes control at camp are largely targeted to avoidance of extremes of blood glucose rather than perfect glucose control. Management is particularly designed to prevention of, recognition of, and prompt management of hypoglycemia.
What about non-diabetes camping?
Some children with diabetes might attend "normal camps" which are not geared to kids with diabetes. As one camper points out, "It's not that I had anything against diabetes camps... I was just already attached to my own camp. If you are going to a regular camp, though, you should already be the primary handler of your diabetes before you go, or else it will be too much of a shock."
I'm an adult with diabetes. Can I volunteer to help?
The answer is almost always "yes." Especially needed will be health professionals who are used to dealing with kids and/or with diabetes, but lay persons may also be needed to help. Contact your local camp and ask!
Some online diabetes camping resources include:
Position Paper of the American Diabetes Association:
Diabetes Care at Diabetes Camps
Diabetes Care, 2007
A series of webpages about various aspect of camping:
Diabetes Camp (at American Diabetes Association website)