Kids Can Breathe Easy at Asthma Camp
by Cynthia Isaacson, MA
Both parents and their kids with asthma can breathe easy this summer knowing they will be well taken care of at asthma camp. Asthma camps are exclusively for children and teens with persistent asthma, meaning they take daily controller medication. Many of the kids who go to asthma camp are unable to attend a “mainstream” camp because of their chronic disease, required daily medications, or their parents’ discomfort with not knowing the level of care their child will receive away from home.
Asthma camps are organized and staffed around-the-clock by highly trained medical professionals, including specialists, physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists, to ensure that each camper’s asthma is well managed. These camps take added steps to remove, or help children avoid, asthma triggers. Asthma camps allow campers to connect with other kids just like them and experience fun outdoor activities in a safe environment. Recreation varies at each camp, but many offer activities such as swimming, canoeing, kayaking, arts and crafts, outdoor cooking, archery, ropes courses, team sports, and nature walks.
Asthma camps allow campers to connect with other kids just like them and experience fun outdoor activities in a safe environment.
Researchers have found that children who attended asthma camps, either day or overnight camps, were more likely to use their daily controller medication. In addition, children who attended asthma camps were 33 percent less likely to be hospitalized for asthma in the following year than children with asthma who did not attend camp. Why? At asthma camp, campers learn about their chronic disease as well as how to recognize signs and symptoms of a flare-up, how and when to take their medications, and how to safely participate in all activities despite their asthma.
Find an Asthma Camp Near You
Registration is open for your child to attend an asthma camp this summer, and the Consortium on Children’s Asthma Camps can help locate a camp near you. The Consortium is a national coalition of around 100 asthma camps that promotes high-quality medical care at existing asthma camps, provides parameters for asthma education, promotes the development of new asthma camps, and develops initiatives to target high-risk children and give them the opportunity to attend asthma camp. To find a camp in your area, go to the Consortium’s website at AsthmaCamps.org, and click find a camp. More information about camp activities, packing lists, and dates are available on each camp’s website, and financial assistance may be available. If you’d like more details on a particular camp, contact that camp’s coordinator.
Campers’ parents appreciate the positive impact that asthma camp has on their children’s lives. According to one camper’s parent, “Camp is a place where a child with asthma can still be a child. You don’t have to be concerned, because you know the kids are well taken care of. Camp helped my son improve his asthma care. They showed him proper medication techniques and got him on a regular schedule for taking his medications. He takes his medication himself now.”
Importantly, campers love the experience too. One camper in particular, Matthew, was a shy, reserved child with asthma whose symptoms had kept him from getting involved in sports and other activities, making him feel like an outsider. Matthew attended asthma camp for the first time in 2011. During camp, he learned how to keep his asthma under control by taking his controller medication every day and using the correct technique. With his asthma under control, he no longer had to sit on the sidelines. After camp, he enrolled in tae kwon do. By his third year of camp, Matthew was an outgoing kid showing leadership with the younger campers. He’s now a black belt in tae kwon do.
Cynthia Isaacson is the manager of communications for the Consortium of Children’s Asthma Camps. She also organizes Camp Superkids, a camp for kids with asthma in Loretto, MN, through the American Lung Association in Minnesota.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, May/June 2014.