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Summer Camp

"Most adults remember their camp days with great fondness. Children with food allergies should be able to have the same wonderful experience. As a parent, the same diligence you use when investigating your child’s school will also help you choose the right camp.

If you’re a camp director or counselor, working as a team with parents will enable you take the precautions needed to protect food-allergic campers.

For Parents
A team meeting with the staff at camp can be just as helpful as the one for school. You’ll want to include the head of food service, so you can learn about the food allergy management policies in the kitchen and see menus beforehand. You’ll also want to inquire about food policies in the bunks and during special activities. As with all professionals who care for your child, you’ll want to provide the Emergency Medical Plan and an Emergency Treatment Authorization form. Finally, you should gather the following information from the camp administration:

  1. Has the camp had other campers with food allergies? How does it handle these campers?
  2. Who is the medical person in charge? Is there a camp physician in residence? A nurse?
  3. Where will the epinephrine and other medications be stored and how available will they be?
  4. Can your child carry her own medications?
  5. How many people will be trained in administering the epinephrine autoinjectors?
  6. How close is the nearest emergency medical treatment center?
  7. Does the local ambulance service have paramedics who are authorized to administer epinephrine?
  8. Does the local ambulance service subscribe to Lifestar or another helicopter service?
  9. Who will be trained in the administration of epinephrine?
  10. Do camp counselors have walkie-talkies?
  11. Are all counselors trained in CPR?
  12. What outings may the campers be going on, and how accessible is medication or emergency treatment on these outings?

Again, be aware that camp is a very social experience, and you want your child to feel safe, not isolated. Providing enough allergen-free snacks to last throughout camp will help your child feel part of the activities. You may want to request that a counselor keep the snacks and dispense them when other children are having theirs, or that the snacks be kept in the camp’s store or canteen. Don’t forget to send enough to share!

For Camp Directors and Counselors
Camp is a time for children to explore new things and learn how to function independently away from home. While providing a safe environment for a food-allergic camper may be challenging, with coordinated teamwork among camp staff and parents, campers can feel safe and part of the fun.

Meet with parents and learn about special dietary requirements.
A food-allergic child’s parents should be able to provide a list of problem foods and appropriate substitutions. In many cases, the parents will offer to send their child’s food to make sure that only safe dishes are served. Be certain that the entire camp staff knows about these special arrangements.

Identify all food-allergic campers.
Attach a photo of the food-allergic camper to the child’s food substitution list and the Emergency Treatment Authorization form. Give copies to the kitchen staff, and be sure that all staff that will care for these campers can identify them. That includes cabin counselors and the staff who run the camp’s store/canteen.

Read ingredient labels on all foods.
There is no cure for food allergies. Reading ingredient lists on packaged foods and strictly avoiding all foods that could cause reactions is the primary treatment for food allergies. Ingredients can change without warning. Additionally, the institutional size and individual size portions of some foods have different ingredients—always read the ingredient label for each food. Some foods may state that they are dairy-free or kosher. These products may still contain milk protein and the ingredient label should be read with care. Staff should be familiar with ingredient names that may indicate common allergens, like albumin for egg and casein for milk.

The camp experience helps children grow and gain independence. It is important that cabin or bunk mates be educated at an appropriate time, in a way that does not isolate the food-allergic child or leave him open to teasing. Counselors should respect food-allergic campers’ privacy and take this up in their cabins, encouraging a partnership with a buddy who can intervene if a reaction begins. Safety should always come first—but remember, every camper wants to be one of the gang, food allergy or not."

Thanks to, Food Allergy Initiative, http://www.faiusa.org/?page=home

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