How to Keep Your Child With Food Allergies Safe At Camp

How to Keep Your Child With Food Allergies Safe At Camp

July 31, 2019 | Personal Injury

Summer camp is a fun time for many youths across the country.

Memories of campfires, crafts, camping out, canoeing, tents and camp food, sports, outdoor hiking, and friendships are all part of the camping experience.

It’s something every child should have the chance to experience, and children with food allergies are no exception.

However, for a child with food allergies, summer camps can be a time of anxious fear and uncertainty without the right planning and without proper preparations beforehand.

Whether your child attends a day or residential camp, a multi-night in the woods camp out, a sports camp, or long extended stay camping experience, there is some risk of accidental exposure to a food allergen.

Now of course the longer the stay the higher the risk for exposure but even at a 1-2 day camp retreat care must be exercised to protect your child with food allergies.

As a family you can take the following steps to prepare for camp this summer, just as you would for school or any other place your child spends a lot of time.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you prepare for summer camping fun:

Choose an Appropriate Camp for Your Child

Find out the following things before deciding on what camp your child will be attending:

  • Who is the primary healthcare provider? Be sure to get name and contact information to talk to them before the camp if possible as well as their contact at the camp.
  • What are his or her credentials? Make sure they have experienced with the age group your child is in and that they at least have an understanding of their specific allergy.
  • Who handles allergy and medical issues in this person’s absence? Always get contact information for back up staff members who may have contact with your child.
  • How does the camp track and share food allergy information among the staff? Make sure your child’s information is protected but also available to those who need access.
  • Is their allergy tracking process adequate for your child? You must feel confident that they will be able to properly protect your child and care for them in an emergency.
  • How far is the camp from a medical treatment center? This can be a big factor for you, especially if your child has severe allergies or multiple food allergies to deal with.
  • What trips are planned that can affect response time in an emergency? Overnight camps and hiking trips are fun but can make allergic reactions more dangerous.
  • Does the facility have mean to store allergy medication you provide? Make sure your child’s medicine is accessible and protected and taken anywhere your child goes too.
  • What limits the camp’s ability to care for your child? If there is anything the camp cannot do you feel is a deal breaker then consider look elsewhere for a safer camp.

Making Preparations for the Camp

Once you have made your selection and have chosen the summer camp for your child, you are going to want to notify the staff of the camper’s allergies or suspected allergies as soon as possible so that they can be aware and can let you know if they feel they will be able to accommodate your child safely and what special steps they can take to ensure they are safe.

Use the camp application or health form to fully describe your child’s food allergy and do not hesitate to include additional pages if necessary.

Share doctor notes and instructions on the application so the staff fully understands the extent and severity of the allergy your child has.

Use the FARE Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan.

List foods the camper is allergic to and the specific symptoms of his or her typical allergic reaction.

Do this as soon as possible so there can be time for discussion and special arrangements.

Always make personal contact with the director, counselor or the division supervisor well before the camper arrives at the facility to make sure everything is in order for them.

Safety and Peace of Mind While at the Camp

Camp is supposed to be a fun time for kids but it can be a stressful time when your child has a food allergy but it is possible to get safety and peace of mind.

“Make sure the camp director notifies all staff who will be responsible for your child.

Anyone who may offer food or plan events needs to be aware of the allergy.

This can include lifeguards, transportation drivers, dining hall and cafeteria workers, camp nurses, counselors and specialty area workers.

Remember that camps may use volunteers who only come to camp one or two days during the week.

These individuals will also need to understand the camp’s food allergy policy.

Provide the camp with a recent photo of your child.

Attach it to written instructions, medical documentation and medications as prescribed by your physician for managing an allergic reaction” (Food Allergy).

Given the remote location of many camps, it is important to provide an adequate supply of epinephrine, if prescribed, so your child has enough for the duration of camp and little extra incase a dose gets lost or broken or damaged.

You can also give yourself and your child peace of mind as they head off to camp by helping them prepare in their own way for their camping experience.

Educate your camper on how to self-manage his or her food allergy.

Review the emergency plan you have set up in the event of allergic reaction and review it often!

The child should know:

  • Safe and unsafe foods and what other foods can often contain their allergy trigger
  • Ways to avoid exposure and how to reduce severity of exposure if it can’t be avoided
  • Symptoms of allergic reactions and other possible symptoms in case new ones arise
  • How and when to announce they are experiencing or might be experiencing symptoms
  • How to read a food label on candy bars, drinks, other camp foods if they are old enough
  • For young campers, tell them how to meet up with staff to touch base regularly
  • How to use epinephrine safely and when to use it during an allergic reaction

This whole process of teaching your child about what to do to stay safe at camp is much easier if you start when they are young and make it organic and natural.

We are all familiar with the concept of letting our children carry their own epinephrine when they are old enough and then start speaking to managers themselves in restaurants.

It is the little steps day by day as they get older and more responsibility that helps them grow and develop and take charge of their bodies and their allergies.

Letting your child go to sleepaway camp is one of the very big steps that they will towards growing and maturing by giving them that gift of independence.

It can be incredibly empowering for a child with food allergies to realize that they can do things their friends can and in some way,  they can be more normal and have fun at summer camp!

Closing Thought on Summer Camp With Food Allergies

If your child has a food allergy, take these precautions to ensure his or her safety:

  • Notify important people about their food allergy. Make sure the people at the camp are aware of what their food triggers are and knowns about their food limits.
    They also need to know about how much exposure it takes to trigger reactions- some need to ingest the food and others get triggered by simply breathing particles in or contact with their skin.
  • Explain food allergy symptoms.
    Make sure any and all staff adults and children who are going to be with your child know and recognize their allergy symptoms.
    They should also know what the symptoms look like, how severe they can be, and what should be done at the first sign of an allergic reaction as well as with more advanced symptoms.
  • Write out and practice an action plan.
    Chances are you already have a plan in place that you review and follow at home if allergy symptoms arise.
    The same needs to be done before your child heads out on a camping trip. Your plan should describe how to care for your child when an allergic reaction to food occurs and give copies to the people above.
  • Keep all doctor appointments, especially before the camping trip.
    Even if you already know what foods your child is allergic to and what you need to do to control and manage their symptoms, keep appointments to monitor overall health.
    Their doctor can also offer other tips and helpful ideas to help them have a safe and fun time at camp.
  • Give your child a medical alert bracelet or necklace if they don’t have one.
    This will serve the same purpose as it does for adults and is useful for young children.
    These kinds of identification badges can help them while they are out at camp and away from home so people know what to look for when they have an issue with their food allergy.
  • Teach your child about their allergy.
    Education is key to being prepared and comfortable while away at camp.
    As soon as they are old enough understand, teach your child about their allergy so they can watch out too. Always talk to them and help them by answering any and all questions they may have and calm any fears they may have as well.

Summer camp is a fun time for many youths across the country.

Memories of campfires, crafts, camping out, canoeing, tents and camp food, sports, outdoor hiking, and friendships are all part of the camping experience.

It’s something every child should have the chance to experience, and children with food allergies are no exception.

You can also give yourself and your child peace of mind as they head off to camp by helping them prepare in their own way for their camping experience.

Educate your camper on how to self-manage his or her food allergy.

Review the emergency plan you have set up in the event of allergic reaction and review it often!

However, for a child with food allergies, summer camps can be a time of anxious fear and uncertainty without the right planning and without proper preparations beforehand.

These tips and pointers are a great place to start with planning a safe and fun summer camp experience this year!

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