Coping with Kids' Allergies at Camp
If you have a child with serious food allergies, you probably go to great lengths to ensure your home is free of any foods or ingredients that could trigger symptoms. But when it comes time for your child to go away to summer camp, it can be trickier--but not impossible--to ensure your child will be safe in a strange new place.
Do Your Homework
Do Your Homework
First of all, you should understand that the type of kids' allergies you are dealing with makes a huge difference in how to cope with them at summer camp. Is it an allergy to one food that you are concerned about? Or could it be multiple foods that are of a concern? Does your child also have seasonal allergies or asthma symptoms to content with? Further, how serious are your child's reactions typically? All of this information is important for the camp personnel to know in advance, so they will know what to expect and can be ready to respond in an emergency.
The experts recommend that parents who are grappling with severe kids' allergies to foods should plan to meet with the director of any camp they are considering and ask some of the following questions to determine whether their child will be safe in the camp setting:
Can the counselors provide safe accommodations where your child can be removed from food allergy triggers?
Can the camp provide meals that will meet your child's dietary needs?
Is there any concern that the foods, utensils, serving pieces or setting will come into contact with the food(s) your child is allergic to, and cause a reaction?
Are the counselors equipped to deal with an allergic reaction to food and/or to the environment? Will there always be an adult in charge who can ensure your child will get his or her medication properly in case of a reaction?
Would your child always be in close proximity to medical treatment should an emergency arise?
In addition to making an effort to find a summer camp that is able to accommodate kids' allergies and special needs, once you decide on a setting, it is important that you take the time to also educate the camp staff about your child's special concerns. One way to do this is by creating a Food Allergy Action Plan that offers detailed information about your child's allergies and how to treat them.
You will also want to check the camp menu thoroughly in advance and approve the meals that your child can eat or make a point to alert the staff to any potential issues your child could have.
Finally, involve your child in the preparation. He or she should know what foods must be avoided and why, and should always carry an epinephrine injector in case a reaction occurs.
Look for Special "Allergy-Friendly" Settings
If despite your best attempts you are still nervous about sending your child away to summer camp, you might be relieved to know that there are some special overnight and day camps in the U.S. and Canada that are specifically geared toward campers who suffer from serious kids' allergies. These can provide a welcome retreat for your child and can also give you much-needed peace of mind, since you know that kids' allergies won't interfere with your child's participation in the wide range of fun and activities they will find there.
In addition to providing a safe environment, such camps can also offer a unique opportunity for your child to meet others with similar health issues so he or she will feel much less alone.
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