Camp Staff Responsibilities

Learn how your camp can establish protocols to prevent and respond to food-induced allergic reactions.

It’s estimated that each year, more than 11 million children and adults attend a camp. Throughout the U.S., there are more than 12,000 day and summer camps, run by nonprofit organizations, religious organizations or private entities. Camps provide wonderful opportunities for enrichment and socialization.

For the nearly 6 million children in the U.S. with food allergies, it’s important that camps have established food allergy policies. Food allergy reactions occur without warning, and they could even occur for the first time while a child is at camp.

Having a written food allergy policy in place ensures that staff members are well-equipped to care for children who experience food allergy reactions while at camp.

Camps should find out whether their state government allows camp officials to have epinephrine on hand in case a child who has not been previously diagnosed with a food allergy has an allergic reaction. Camp staffers should know where epinephrine is stored and should be trained on how to administer it.

Creating a Camp Food Allergy Policy

Know about the availability of emergency care, including:

  • How to contact an EMT/ambulance;
  • How much time it will take for an emergency crew to arrive;
  • How far it is to the nearest hospital; and
  • If the hospital has an M.D. present at all times.

Camps in non-urban settings must understand that rural ambulance and emergency crews may be volunteers. These emergency situations may require additional plans and medications.

On trips away from the campsite, always carry a communication device (i.e., cell phone, two-way radio).

Review the health records submitted by parents and physicians.

This includes the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. Ask questions if you do not understand anything in these documents.

Establish prevention protocols for your camp.

  • Make plans so that the camper with food allergies can safely join all activities.
  • Be certain that all food service or kitchen personnel are aware of, and can identify, the child with food allergies.
  • Discuss meal plans with parents and the camper. Make alternative plans if necessary.
  • Plan how a camper with food allergies will take part in meals. For example, he or she might need to go first in a buffet line and at other food-related events to avoid cross-contact. Or, the camper might need to sit apart from other campers, in a special allergen-free space. In the latter case, make an effort to have someone sit with the camper so he or she doesn’t feel excluded.

Assure that all who will be in contact with camper know about the food allergy. Make sure they can recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction and know what to do if a reaction occurs.

Maintain an appropriate sense of confidentiality and respect for individual privacy.

Identify the camp core emergency response team.

  • Arrange to have this team meet with the parents and camper on or before the camper’s first day.
  • Make sure the nurse has the required authorizations and appropriate medications to use in the event of accidental contact or ingestion.

Ensure that appropriate personnel are familiar with how to use epinephrine, where the medication is located and the camp protocol.

  • Schedule a training session before the start of camp. Allow participants to become familiar with how to operate epinephrine auto-injectors.
  • Comply with local and state regulations about the administration of medication.

If there are planned field trips or offsite activities:

  • Be certain any emergency medications and authorizations go with the camper and the counselor.
  • Make sure they have a way to contact emergency help.

Some medications, such as epinephrine, become ineffective if exposed to temperature extremes (heat or cold) or light. Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and store medications correctly. Be certain that all personnel understand the importance of this. Learn more.

Food Allergy Research & Education can be contacted at 800-929-4040 or FARE is happy to answer general questions about food allergies. However, we cannot provide specific medical advice. For emergencies, please call 911 immediately.


These guidelines were developed with input from:

Helen Rebull, R.N., Congressional Schools of Virginia
Association of Camp Nurses
Food Allergy Research & Education

Download these guidelines as a PDF



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