Campfires, smores, ziplines, new friends. Summer camps bring many new fun experiences. However, for kids with allergies, asthma, and food allergies (as well as their parents), the thought of summer camp may also invoke anxiety and fear. With a little extra preparation, anxieties can be calmed and kids with allergies and asthma do not have to miss out on all the exciting adventures that camp brings. Here are a few tips to help make the planning easier:
1.) Choose the right camp.
There are several things to think about when choosing what camp to send your kids to:
Do the counselors/staff have any specialty training in recognizing food allergy reactions/asthma attacks and in how to respond to these situations?
Are medically trained professionals there at all times? What are their credentials?
How far away is the camp from the nearest emergency room/hospital?
Is the kitchen staff trained in how to prepare food-allergy friendly meals? Do they know how to avoid cross contamination?
Remember, there are specialty camps for kids with food allergies, FPIES, EoE, atopic dermatitis, and asthma. There is not always one in your area but there are several across the country. Food Allergy Research & Education has a list of Food Allergy safe camps https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/heading-camp.
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Connection Team also has Camp Tag which is open to kids with any allergy condition and their siblings!
2.) Make sure to see the allergist before you go.
Make sure that your child’s Food Allergy Action Plan or Asthma Action Plan is up to date.
Make sure all dosages are correct for their current weight.
Make sure all of their medications have current prescriptions.
3.) Communicate with the camp ahead of time.
Make sure the camp has an up-to-date Food Allergy Action Plan or Asthma Action Plan.
Make sure they are aware of your child’s food allergies and that the kitchen is prepared to make their meals.
Make sure you have determined if the counselor will carry your child’s albuterol/epipen or if your child will self-carry.
If there are any off-site field trips, make sure that the child’s emergency medicine goes with them.
Determine if your child is allowed to bring their own food-allergy friendly snacks.
4.) Don’t forget about contact allergies.
Some kids have contact allergies to certain sunscreens. If this is the case, make sure to bring your own. Blue Lizard is usually well tolerated.
Teach your kids about what poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac look like. Calamine lotion may help, but if there is extensive exposure, an oral steroid may be needed. The camp doctor should be able to prescribe this.
To guarantee a great summer for your child, do some advance planning to make sure the camp you select can meet medical needs while allowing for a great camping experience.