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Preparing Kids with Food Allergies For Summer Camp

Summer camp is an exciting time when many fun memories and new friends are made. As a parent of a child with food allergies, ensuring your son or daughter is safe is what matters most. But you also don’t want your child to miss out on the wonderful shared experiences of food and play. After all, what’s summer camp without campfire marshmallow roasts? Just remember, protecting your child at camp is a collaborative effort between you, your child and the camp staff. Being proactive, asking questions and taking precautions is essential for your child to be prepared, feel empowered, and have fun at camp!

Here are a couple tips:

  1. Consult with the camp well in advance of your child’s first day to determine their canteen format, and if they have any special documentation required to fill out.  (Many parents will have this conversation with the camp, as part of the initial research into which camp to sign up with.)  Providing a child’s allergy action plan in the camp’s format streamlines processes and mitigates confusion or the chance for mistakes with  camp staff.
  2. If your camp doesn’t have a document to fill out, make one yourself.  Be sure to include:
    • The foods your child must avoid
    • The level of sensitivity i.e. whether your child needs to sit at a dedicated allergy-free table or not
    • Signs your child is having a reaction
    • How your child will describe they are having a reaction
    • What to do in case of a reaction, and clearly state the treatment plan
  3. Educate your child on how to be allergy-safe:
    • Not sharing foods; recognizing unsafe foods
    • How to recognize they are having an allergic reaction
    • When to tell an adult they are having a reaction
    • Discuss scenarios where they might encounter unsafe foods and how to manage i.e. smores by the campfire.  If meal times are buffet style they should expect to go first in order to avoid cross-contamination etc.
    • How to administer medication (if required/able)
  4. Send your child with allergy-safe treat options for counselors to have on hand for times when the food available isn’t safe for your child.
  5. Ask a lot of questions:
    • Is there a medical professional onsite?
    • How close is the nearest medical clinic/hospital?
    • Are there field trips or outing plans that will take your child out of reach from medical care?
    • Is there a director or counselor you can be in direct contact with to make sure everything is ok?
  6. Make sure you double check the expiration on any of your child’s medications and follow camp instructions for labeling and protocol for how medication is stored once your child is onsite.Last but not least…
  7. Consider looking for camps that specialize in hosting campers with food allergies.  They are becoming more common than you’d think!  A google search will show you what food allergy-friendly camps are available in your preferred location. It can be a great way, especially for younger kids, to experience time away from home in a safe and controlled environment.