I hear it again and again – no two camps are identical. I get it, it makes sense. But there is one thing all camps share – the desire to promote and protect their mission. Whether explicitly laid out, or implied, that mission likely includes something along the lines of keeping campers healthy and safe. Even back in 1861 when The Gunnery Camp was founded, I’m willing to betCamp that health and safety were a concern – they had to be with activities including hiking, boating, fishing, and trapping. Yes, trapping. (Something tells me this camp wasn’t for the faint of heart or stomach.) 

I don’t know the statistics on camps that still actively trap. Perhaps it’s higher than I’d imagine, but trapping or no, there are many, many camps that are quite physically active, and campers can be injured at any time. Even at less physical camps, water on the floor can lead to a fall. Injuries can literally come from anywhere, whether it be a walk from one cabin to another, tripping over a rock, or a sports instrument to the face – these things happen.

But it’s not enough to prepare for injuries, because that’s not the sole manner in which a camper can be harmed. Adding to the mix are allergies. Bee stings and environmental allergies are common and for some can be life threatening. And, because there isn’t enough to consider and prepare for already, food allergies add to the complexity of ensuring camper health and safety. The prevalence of food and skin allergies has increased, meaning what in the past may have been a less prominent concern, is now becoming a bigger issue to tackle. Even if a camper, and the camp, are aware of a food allergy, one slip up can prove fatal, as was the case for a 13-year old camper in California this year.

The problem with ensuring health and safety is that there are so many moving pieces, so many details, and so many procedures and action plans that need to be carefully and thoughtfully planned, in order to be well executed should an injury or allergy event occur. Campers, their parents and/or guardians if they’re minors, and the camp all need to be on the same page, have access to the vital information, and know how to react. Each camp may be different, but at the core, they’re all about providing campers with experiences, and ensuring they’re afforded those experiences relies heavily on their health, safety, and well-being. I think we can all agree on that.

These few things I’ve mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. As any camp owner or staff member knows, there is much more involved to achieve a safe camp season. In an upcoming research paper, I’ll further address the complexities of one of these issues – food allergies in a camp setting. Until then, check out our other research papers, including Health Records in an Emergency and Disaster Preparation & Recovery.

Kathryn Sloop

Written by Kathryn Sloop

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