Surviving the Summer with IBD Kids

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Summer break is here for my kids — and it could not have come too soon! While summer can be tons of fun, there are extra considerations when you have a child with chronic medical problems such as irritable bowel disease (IBD). Here are a few tips for getting through the summer safely with your IBDer.

Summer camps

While many kids with IBD can attend a regular summer camp, some would benefit from one that has more specialized medical care. One of the best camps around for IBDers is Camp Oasis run by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. At Camp Oasis the kids will be able to interact with other kids who are going through the same things while parents also have the reassurance of 24/7 medical care from on-site physicians and nurses. The camp offers land and water sports, ropes courses and other adventures, visual and performing arts as well as leadership development for older participants.

Camp Oasis is available for 2017 at these locations:

Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times - Mountain Center, California

YMCA Camp Shady Brook - Deckers, Colorado

Camp Will-A-Way - Winder, Georgia

YMCA Camp Copneconic - Fenton, Michigan

YMCA Camp Lakewood - Potosi, Missouri

One Heartland - Willow River, Minnesota

Camp Scatico - Elizaville, New York

Camp Nock-A-Mixon - Kintnersville, Pennsylvania

URJ Greene Family Camp - Bruceville, Texas

YMCA Camp Colman - Longbranch, Washington

Lutherdale Ministries - Elkhorn, Wisconsin

Camp Tall Timbers - High View, West Virginia

There are always other camps if you do not have Camp Oasis available in your area. Depending on your child’s health status, you will have to determine on a case-by-case basis if the camp is feasible for your child. I have two medically fragile children, so a physician as well as hospital access has to be nearby for them.

Summer activities

If your child has IBD there may be some restrictions to their activities but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have an amazing summer! A few things to consider before diving in headfirst might include:

  • Medications and overheating: Many medications can cause overheating to be more likely. Whether the medication itself makes you more likely to overheat, suffer sunburn or simply become dehydrated (also making it more likely to overheat), it’s important to know before hand. Talk with your doctor about heat exposure, wear sunscreen and stay hydrated! How much water should they drink? Divide your child’s body weight in half, and aim to drink that number of ounces every day. So if your child weighs 50 pounds, that’s 25 ounces of water. Do the math for them and figure out how many refills that means for their water bottle.

  • Exposure to GI infections: Food borne illness can run rampant in the summer months. Prevent catching a case of the summer trots by practicing good hand washing skills. And practice good food safety by keeping the cold things cold and the hot things hot. This food keeper app can help! It only takes an hour and a half in normal temperatures for food to go bad, and the summer heat can spoil food even more quickly. Bring coolers and thermal bags for food. If you have your food out for a while and you aren’t sure if it’s been too long — toss it. It’s better to be safe than sorry! Food poisoning can be brutal on top of IBD!

If you are looking for some fun activities that aren’t too strenuous when your IBDer isn’t feeling 100 percent, check out some of our favorites:

  • See a movie: Drive in, movie theatre, or at home, a summer movie can be a great way to beat the heat when you are not feeling great. - Read a good book or check out your local library. - Hang out at the pool and swim swim swim if you’re up for it. - Check out the summer music concerts in your area. - Visit a museum or theme park. - Make a lemonade stand with your kids. Bonus: Yummy cool drinks. - Go geocaching, the scavenger hunt that you can do with a smartphone. - Plan to learn a new skill: a new language, sewing, skateboarding, surfing, or whatever strikes your fancy. Plan ahead to try something new each summer! - Make your own ice cream. Not great at this? Buy plain vanilla with a variety of toppings and make an at home sundae bar! - Host a fancy tea party for your friends or stuffed animals (if you aren’t up for company). - Dress up in silly costumes and have a photo shoot. - Have a bubble or water balloon battle. - Create an indoor kids garden by planting herbs in small pots and placing them in a window to grow. - Buy duct tape and make one of these amazing creations. - Research your family history.

Many of these fun activities can be done inside or modified for days when your IBDer also is getting a little bored of laying around the house. I hope that they help you to find some fun things to do this summer!

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.