Managing Diabetes Care at Camp

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(070607  Charlton, MA Biathlon at Joslin CampFriday, July 06, 2007.  Photo by Arthur Pollock

Photo by Arthur Pollock

Last week we talked about how to choose a camp when your child has diabetes, and this week we will discuss how to help your child manage their diabetes at camp. Attending summer camp is similar to going on vacation or other times when there is a significant change in your child’s daily routine and planning is the key.

Diabetes Camps

The biggest change is that the increased activity at camp often leads to a decreased insulin dose. “Most of our kids find that their insulin dosage is reduced upon arrival at camp,” Mark Bissell, Resident Camp Director at Camp Joslin (a program operated by The Barton Center for Diabetes Education, Inc.) stated. “Blood glucose levels are monitored more frequently due to the increased activity and the unfamiliar setting.”

Jonas Goldenberg, Executive Director, The Barton Center, adds, “Every child is getting personal attention from their health care team member on a regular basis throughout the day and night. They are regularly checking blood sugars, ensuring the right dosage/type of insulin is taken, and pump users are bolusing and making dosage adjustments as needed. They are doing everything possible to ensure the health of your child, while the counselors and program staff are ensuring that your child has the “best time of his or her life.”

Non-Diabetes Camps

If your child chooses to attend a non-diabetes camp, Bonny Huston, Health Services Manager for The Barton Center, has this advice:

  • Find out if the camp has a nurse on site and his/her knowledge of current diabetes management.  Spend time with the nurse to review your child’s diabetes care and his/her signs related to being outside target blood glucose levels.
  • Discuss decreasing your child’s daily insulin dose with their doctor or diabetes educator before going to camp.
  • Prepare a diabetes supplies box including such things as an extra meter, batteries, pump supplies, ketone testing supplies, extra quick sugar snacks, extra insulin, and insulin pen.

Overnight camps

  • Develop a plan with the camp nurse or health care provider about blood glucose monitoring before meals, at bedtime, and between midnight and 2 am.
  • Children are so excited and energetic in the camping environment.  Unfortunately this places them at risk for low blood glucose levels in the middle of the night.
  • Think about strategies regarding snacks, their content, and amount in relationship to activity and blood glucose levels.
  • Decide when you want the medical staff to call you; for defined circumstances (high or low blood sugar, illness, poor appetite) or on a regular, perhaps daily basis.
  • Speak with your child’s health care provider about low dose glucagon as an option for treating low blood sugars at night

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