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Summer may seem far away, but it’s never too early to start making plans — especially if your child has diabetes.

Camps are great places where kids can meet new people, learn new things and, most importantly, have fun.  So now you might be thinking…should I send my child to a regular sleepaway camp or a diabetes camp? Both can be good choices but it can depend upon:

  • How long has your child had diabetes?
  • Are they able to manage diabetes themselves?
  • How old is your child?
  • Will this be the first time he/she is away?

Diabetes camps have medical professionals with diabetes-care experience on staff. They offer classic camp activities as well as helping to prepare and equip children with knowledge on how to manage their diabetes. Your child will not feel “different” since all of the other children are doing the same diabetes tasks. Many children begin their camping experience at a diabetes camp before branching out to a traditional camp.

Although traditional camps are not focused on diabetes, it still may be the right choice for your child. They may have a medical team or staff person that does have experience in this area. This is similar to sending your child to school: it takes planning. Parents need to be very involved in familiarizing the camp staff with diabetes care, starting with the very basics and emphasizing what the camp needs to know to keep your child safe.

A little research on your part can help you chose the right camp for your child and, with some planning, minimize your fears and concerns.

  • Make sure that the camp is accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA). This ensures that the camp takes certain safety methods, which include meeting cleanliness guidelines, high staff-to-camper ratio, and credential program staff (including lifeguards) that have been given background checks.
  • If you are considering a diabetes camp, ask if they follow the guidelines from the American Diabetes Association for diabetes camps.
  • Talk extensively with the medical director and/or nursing staff.
  • Assess the capabilities of the camp’s staff and resources.
  • Consider a visit to the camp prior to making a decision.
  • Think about your child’s interests (sports, music, art, etc.).

Your decision may likely also be determined by availability and cost. The earlier you apply to camp, the greater the chance of getting a spot. Most diabetes camps give full or partial scholarships based on financial need. Ask for information about this before you rule out a camp that seems expensive.

Remember that every child is different, so what is good for your child may not work for another. A sleepaway camp may not be an option at all. Perhaps a day camp would be a good starting place. Whether you choose a camp specializing in caring for children with diabetes or a traditional camp program, planning and preparation will ensure that your child has a safe and enjoyable experience and returns with lasting, postive memories to share.

To find out more about diabetes camps check with American Diabetes AssociationChildren with Diabetes and the Diabetes Education and Camping Association.

SOURCE: Information derived from “Choosing a Summer Camp,” Joslin Diabetes Center; “Sending your Kid to Camp,” Diabetes Self-Management; “Fun and Safety – ACA Accredited Camps Set the Standard,” American Camp Association; “Diabetes Management at Camps for Children with Diabetes,” American Diabetes Association; “Camps for Children with Diabetes,” Children with Diabetes.

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