With new times come new challenges. This year our family discussion fell directly on the latest ‘hot button’ topic and our first important topic to consider when choosing summer camps: Communicable diseases - or more specifically, the measles. Much has been said in the media about pockets of un-immunized in Northern California and not surprisingly there has been an incredible social media frenzy surrounding the topic. People seem to be turning on their neighbors with pitchforks over this so I’m definitely not going to get into that discussion here. My only thought is this: each side is absolutely sure that they are right. Unless we can all step back and remove the emotional charge from the topic, we’ll never discuss the actual facts behind the science. No matter what your stance is, remember to be respectful - I’ve read about and personally witnessed grown adults acting like children, resorting to name calling and flat out obstinate behavior. Remember - our little ones are watching and mimicking. Measles is normally a mild, self- limiting disease that runs its course without long- standing effect. Two facts to put your mind at ease: we still have an 85-90% vaccination rate. Secondly, the risk of death amongst infected persons is 0.2% and these are mostly immunocompromised and/or malnourished individuals. (Atkinson, William - 2011. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases.)
So what do we do to protect our little ones from diseases like measles? Make sure that they have optimally functioning immune systems - easy right? Start with getting proper sleep. Consistent bed time is often the largest barrier to successful sleep pattens, especially trying to get into that all-important REM cycle. After all, this is when the body most efficiently heals and replenishes. Next on the list, not surprisingly, is great - not good - great nutrition. Yes, the kids need to eat something green! If you’re having a hard time, consider a delicious green smoothy. Our kids actually ask us for this on a regular basis. Next, please teach your kids to use their ‘cough pocket’ - coughing into the crux of the elbow instead of into hands or worse into the air for all to share - is one of the best and most effective methods for stopping spread of viral particulate. And lastly, washing hands is still the most effective method to stop spread of airborne communicable disease. The CDC recommends washing hands, with soap and water for at least 30 seconds many times per day. Also be aware that hand sanitizers are generally less effective than proper hand washing techniques.
The second concern our family discussed this year was personal safety. Yes, ‘stranger danger’ could not be more serious these days. Let’s face it, sending our kids off to a new, unfamiliar place with new unfamiliar routines, instructors and friends can be quite disorientating - to parents and kids alike. Have your routine down. Be sure your child knows when and where things are happening. Go over it each morning and drill it until they can repeat it back to you. Develop a unique family password or safe word in case you have to send someone else to pick them up or in worse-case scenario, some unauthorized person tries to. Make sure your kids know to ask them for the password and to run to safety if the person hesitates. This may seem extreme, but it could make all the difference in the world. Secondly, be sure that the camp utilizes the buddy system for an additional layer of safety. This is especially useful for youngsters using the bathroom - this is simply a matter of safety in numbers. By all means begin having the talk about human anatomy and personal and private areas of the body. Starting this dialogue doesn’t need to be daunting - as they are learning about the body in school, just point out private areas and be sure they know to tell you about any unauthorized actions. As always, having open lines of communication with your children is of utmost importance and remember communication is 60% body language.
The third topic of concern for us this year was that of bullying. Here again communication is extremely important and having a good working relationship with camp counselors and staff can really help. Have them bring up to you any issues quickly as being on the look-out for signs of trouble early is of utmost importance. Early detection is key. Again, have conversations with your child about this and be acutely aware of their body language. Bullying situations can accelerate quickly, and end in dire circumstances for some, so please have a plan of attack and don’t hesitate to remove your child from the camp or class if you’re not seeing the behavior change.
Lastly, let’s remember that camps can be a fantastic source of fun and education for our children, but let’s try to not let this be a stressful endeavor for them. You’ll be able to tell if they are not enjoying themselves and if so, change it up. After all, we survived those summers alone in the wilderness - it only made us stronger!
From my family to yours - be well.
Dr. Chris Pieda DC
Dr. Pieda is owner/operator of Back To Health Chiropractic, a family-focused practice serving the East Bay since 2004. For more information, questions or concerns please visit: BackToHealthAlameda.com or call 510-523-5000.