7 Things Your Child Should Know Before Going to Camp With Food Allergies
Special thanks to Camp Wingate*Kirkland for supporting our educational blog series on managing food allergies at camp. The post is the second in a three-part series.
Before your child heads to summer camp, take time to review the following important points about the self-management of his or her food allergy. Review these concepts often with your child, either in person (for day camps) or via phone calls or letters (for sleep-away camps).
Camper should know:
- Safe and unsafe foods
- Strategies for avoiding exposure to unsafe foods. For example, choose a seat at lunch or snack time that is clear of their allergen.
- Symptoms of allergic reactions
- How and when to tell an adult about a possible allergic response
- How to read a food label (e.g. at the camp candy store), if age appropriate. For young campers, plan with camp how to handle this
- How to use epinephrine, if age-appropriate. Epinephrine should be easily accessible at all times, whether carrying on the camper, with an adult, or stored in a nearby building.
- Strategies for dealing with food allergy bullying, such as saying “stop” or “leave me alone” with confidence, using humor, and walking away
- Never trade food with other campers
- Never eat anything with unknown ingredients
- Never eat anything that has not been pre-approved by a parent or caregiver (e.g. counselor or camp food allergy coordinator)
- Always read every label and check with a counselor (if age appropriate)
- Always seek help if a reaction is suspected, even if the camper thinks it’s a mild symptom
- Always tell an adult if a reaction seems to be starting, even if there is no visible appearance of allergic response
- Never go off alone if symptoms are beginning
Run through some potential challenges your child may face at camp and provide them with solutions so they know what to do. For example, present them with the hypothetical scenario that they are given something at lunchtime on their plate and they are unsure whether they should eat it. Brainstorm how they can handle the situation (ask a counselor, find an adult, don’t eat until you feel confident it’s safe).
It’s natural to worry about your child when they’re away from home, but it is possible for them to have a safe and enriching experience at summer camp. Preparing yourself, the camp and your child ahead of time will ensure they are well taken care of in your absence. They may even return home having learned new skills for managing food allergies on their own.
For more information about managing food allergies at camp, visit FARE's Managing Food Allergies at Camp website.
This blog series is made possible through a gift from Camp Wingate*Kirkland.