Family Responsibilities at Camp

Prepare for your child’s time at camp by choosing the right camp, notifying staff and providing an emergency care plan.

Summer camp conjures images of campfires, crafts, canoeing and camaraderie. It’s something every child should have the chance to experience, and children with food allergies are no exception.

But camp brings together children and youth from all backgrounds, and inevitably there will be food transported from home or served by the camp. Whether your child attends a day or residential camp, a sports or travel camp—or another type of camp altogether—there is some risk of accidental exposure to a food allergen.

As a family you can take these steps to prepare, as you would for school or any other place your child spends a lot of time.

Choose an appropriate camp for the child. Find out the following

  • Who is the primary healthcare provider and what are his or her credentials? Who handles their duties in this person’s absence?
  • How does the camp communicate and track food allergy information? Is this adequate for your child?
  • How far is the camp from a medical treatment center?
  • What trips might the camper take that change the response time to an emergency?
  • Does the facility have sufficient allergy medication on hand, enough to provide a margin of safety? Do they bring this with them when they travel?
  • What limits the camp’s ability to care for your child?

One you choose a camp, notify the staff of the camper’s allergies or suspected allergies.

  • Use the camp application or health form to fully describe your child’s food allergy. Use the FARE Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. List foods the camper is allergic to and the specific symptoms of his or her typical allergic reaction.
  • Inform the camp director of the allergy early in the process. This will give them time to hire appropriate personnel or instruct existing personnel on the proper approach to your child.

Make personal contact with the director, counselor or the division supervisor before the camper arrives at the facility.

  • Make sure the camp director notifies all staff who will be responsible for your child. Anyone who may offer food or plan events needs to be aware of the allergy. This can include lifeguards, transportation drivers, dining hall and cafeteria workers, camp nurses, counselors and specialty area workers.
  • Remember that camps may use volunteers who only come to camp one or two days during the week. These individuals will also need to understand the camp’s food allergy policy.

Provide the camp with a recent photo of your child. Attach it to written instructions, medical documentation and medications as prescribed by your physician for managing an allergic reaction.

  • Do not simply transfer school documentation; camp is different from school.
  • Specific camp personnel will need to be authorized and instructed on how to proceed in case of an allergic reaction.
  • The camp may have its own Allergy Action Plan. If not, use the FARE Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan.

Check the expiration date of all medications.

  • Be prepared to replace any expired or unsealed, previously used medication. Review with the camp director and nurse where these medications will be stored. Given the remote location of many camps, provide an adequate supply of epinephrine, if prescribed.

Educate your camper how to self-manage his or her food allergy. Review often!

The child should know:

  • Safe and unsafe foods;
  • Ways to avoid exposure to unsafe foods;
  • Symptoms of allergic reactions;
  • How and when to tell an adult about a possible allergic reaction;
  • 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.

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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