Consider the following steps to enhance your child's participation in camp.
Maximize seizure control
Before your child goes to camp, visit the neurologist and make sure that she is on a stable dose of medicine. If your child is having more seizures, can adjustments be made in advance? If major changes in medicines are recommended, the child may be at greater risk of seizures and side effects during the medicine change. This could interfere with many camp activities, rather than help. See if major changes can be put off until after the camp session if possible.
Lessen risk of medicine side effects
Tell the doctor if your child has medicine side effects, especially those that may affect safety. See if adjustments can be made to limit these. There may be practical tips for giving medicines that could help as well. For example, make sure they are given the same way each day and are spaced out properly during the day. If some side effects happen after doses of medicines, have your child take the medicines after food. Ask if higher doses of medicine can be given at night to limit side effects during the day.
Know what do if side effects occur
For example, if a child is dizzy or unsteady walking for a few hours after taking their medicine, make sure that a counselor is with her during that time. See if higher risk activities (such as rope climbing or hiking) could be done at a different time of day. If times of activities can’t be changed, see if alternative activities can be scheduled when your child is not feeling well. Your child should also know where the first aid hut or nurse/medical person is located. There may be times that your child should just take a break and rest, and then get back to their group activities when they are feeling better.
Minimize or avoid seizure triggers
Make sure that you’ve written down common seizure triggers on your Seizure Plan. Then make sure your child and the counselors know what to do. A few practical tips…
- Make sure your child knows the importance of taking medicines on time and what to do if a dose is missed.
- Make sure that your child can get to bed when necessary, or has a chance to rest during the day. If there’s a late night scheduled, can she still participate but sleep late the next day?
- Have a plan on what to do in the event that your child gets sick – other illnesses or medications can increase a camper’s likelihood of seizures.
- If your child is photosensitive, consider the types of activities carefully and alert the staff so they can help your child avoid these activities. For example, flashing lights at dances, laser games, sunlight flashing quickly through trees, or other stimuli may be bothersome. If bright lights bother a camper, see if polarized sunglasses may help.
- Ask staff to plan ahead if high risk activities are planned when your child has been exposed to seizure triggers. For example, ask if alternate activities can be planned if the child is sleep deprived, sick, or going to be exposed to flashing lights or other triggers. If a girl is just getting her menstrual period, can she adjust her schedule for a few days?
Help your child recover after a seizure
If your child has a seizure during the day, make sure that there’s a place for him to rest until fully recovered. Staff and your child will also need to know when prior activities can be resumed. Here are a few tips to use when checking a camper after a seizure:
- Make sure that the child’s postictal state is described in the Seizure Plan so others know what to expect. Include any particular steps they should follow when checking your child after a seizure.
- Ask some baseline questions after a seizure such as: who are you, what is your counselor or buddy’s name, where are you, what day is it? Make sure the child is alert and oriented before returning to their activity.
- Watch the camper walk and make sure she is steady and does not need help to stand or walk.
- Ask the camper how she feels. If they don’t feel back to baseline, give them a longer time to recover.
- Check for injuries and have the camper evaluated by the medical staff if any injury is found or suspected.
- If the camper has more seizures, is not back to baseline or just doesn’t feel right, don’t let her go back to camp activities yet. Follow the camper’s Seizure Plan for managing seizures and when to call for emergency help. At this point, staff should know if they need to intervene and give an ‘as needed’ seizure medicine or if emergency help should be called.
If seizures occur at night
- Help your child keep bedclothes and sleeping bags clean and dry if they tend to lose control of their urine during a seizure. Maybe wearing a special pad or pants can help prevent problems. Talk to counselors about their ideas too as they are bound to have encountered this before.
- Make sure that children with frequent seizures sleep in a bunk where a counselor is available, and do not sleep on the top bunk.
- Have counselors check the camper in the morning to make sure they feel back to normal and are safe to participate in the day’s activities. If they are still feeling the effects of the seizure, have the camper try an alternative activity until they are feeling back to normal.
- Check the typical camp schedule and make suggestions on how your child may respond or where obvious safety concerns are present.
- Try not to overprotect your child or set him or her apart from other campers.
- Address your concerns well ahead of the first day at camp. Giving instructions at the last minute may make your child more anxious.
- Encourage your child to have fun!
Continue to Staying Safe at Camp
Topic Editor: Steven C. Schachter, MD and Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN.
Reviewed: Robert Fisher, MD and Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN
Last Reviewed: April 2010