The measles outbreaks across the nation have brought new urgency to the health preparations you should make for your child to attend summer camp. Children will be living in close quarters, and at sleepaway camp, they’ll be doing that 24/7, sharing bunk houses, eating areas, sporting gear and art supplies. Even if your child walks into a room an hour or two after a measles-infected child has been there, that’s enough exposure for this highly contagious disease to take hold.
So if your child isn’t fully vaccinated against measles, right now is a good time to make sure you bring that vaccination up to date. Recent outbreaks in New York, Michigan and Washington state have shown us how quickly a couple of cases can become a full-blown threat to an insular community – and in a way, that’s exactly what summer camp is.
The MMR vaccine will also protect your child against mumps, another disease that can spread in an environment where kids are in close proximity. Right here in Texas, Hidalgo County has been experiencing an outbreak of dozens of cases. Other outbreaks have been cropping up around the nation, especially in colleges, which, like summer camps, put young people in close quarters every day and night.
There also have been outbreaks of whooping cough, including a large one in Montana with close to 200 falling ill. Another occurred in South Carolina.
These might seem far away, but remember that you are unlikely to know where all the campers and counselors might hail from. Some counselors are likely to be college students, and camps often draw their staff from across the country or even the world.
Your family doctor or your child’s pediatrician can advise you on the specific vaccinations. Meanwhile, in addition to the ones mentioned above, here are some you might want to ask about, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Tetanus: At some point from ages 11-18—preferably at age 11 or 12—a one-time Tdap booster should be given, protecting against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough. For children who don’t need the Tdap vaccine, but who haven’t had a tetanus shot in 10 or more years, the Td shot is often recommended. Boy Scout camps require tetanus vaccination.
Meningococcal disease: Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine is routinely recommended for 11- through 18-year-olds, according to the HHS. The first dose is given at 11-12 years old with a booster dose at 16 years old.
Hepatitis A: Ask your doctor if your child should be vaccinated against this liver disease. There have been several outbreaks across the nation lately, including among food-service workers.
Check the rules for your child’s summer camp. Many camps require their campers to be vaccinated, with exemptions for children who have medical conditions that make vaccination dangerous for them, and in some cases, for families with religious exemptions. The American Camp Assn. includes vaccination requirements in its accreditation of camps. Accrediting inspectors check to see whether a camp requires “a statement from the custodial parent/guardian attesting that all immunizations required for school are up to date and including the actual date (month/year) of last tetanus shot.”
The last thing anyone wants is for camp to become a miserable experience -- or to be cut short altogether -- by a miserable and potentially dangerous illness, especially when that disease could have easily been prevented. Vaccines are the most effective way to help ensure that your child has a fun, adventurous and healthy summer experience.