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Asthma and Camp

Dylan went to camp for the first time last summer. His parents did everything right. They organized all his medicines, sent an extra spacer, got him a special backpack to hold his medicines for day outings, and gave the camp nurse a copy of his asthma management plan. So what could possibly go wrong?

Dylan loved camp. He made new friends in his bunk, learned to swim, and showed no asthma symptoms until the third week of camp, when his group went horseback riding. Dylan excitedly climbed on his horse and within a few minutes his eyes started to itch and water. His nose got congested, and he started sneezing. An alert counselor took him back to the infirmary where the camp nurse treated his allergic reaction, gave him a dose of albuterol, and Dylan quickly improved. The nurse then called Dylan's parents to notify them of his allergic reaction to the horse, report that he was fine again, and suggested that they have him evaluated by an allergist.

Everything worked smoothly for Dylan in this case, but his parents learned that they must make sure they know ahead of time how medical emergencies will be handled. If you're planning to send your child to day or overnight camp, ask about the camp's policies and procedures for emergencies and what medical personnel will be available to handle them.

Whenever Some Else Is In Charge

Common sense and planning are essential when children with asthma: go away from home without a parent. You need to communicate with anyone who will be taking care of your child. This includes relatives, baby sitters, day care personnel, teachers, coaches, school nurses, friends' parents, camp counselors, and other adults who will be responsible when you aren't with your child. Keep in mind that many people don't have an accurate understanding of asthma. A lot of old myths about asthma are floating around that people still believe are true (common myths are listed in Resources).

Here is a basic list of what other adults need to know:

Names of your child's medicines

When to give them (daily and/or when symptoms occur)

How to give the medicine

What symptoms indicate a problem

What to expect from the medicine (for example, they shouldn't expect immediate relief from a long-term controller medicine but should from a quick-relief medicine)

What to do if the child doesn't improve or gets worse after taking a quick-relief medicine

Who to call in an emergency (parents' work/cellular numbers, backup person if parents aren't reachable, child's physician, ambulance, nearest hospital)

Much of the above will be listed in your child's written asthma management plan, a copy of which should be given to those who are caring for your child.

If you don't know the answers to all these points, sit down with your child's physician or nurse practitiqner and come up with a list together. Request prescriptions that you need now or in the near future, especially if you're planning a trip. Do you need an extra spacer, inhaler, or nebu-lizer that will stay at day care, school, campFind Article, or Grandma's house? It's just a matter of being prepared.

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