My son has a life threatening nut allergy. Does he have to go a “nut free” camp? What should I be looking for in a prospective camp?
Food allergies have become increasingly common and fortunately, most camps recognize the importance of taking precautions when dealing with campers who have allergies. Before choosing a camp, make sure to ask lots of questions so you fully understand a camp’s ability to manage an allergic reaction.
Educate your child to avoid triggers and on the early recognition of symptoms. Make sure your child knows to speak-up and let a staff member know if they think they are experiencing symptoms. Most camp age children are able to do this quite well.
From a parent standpoint, the most important issues is knowing the severity of your child’s allergy. If your child has a mild allergy and can reliably identify what triggers it, then it is reasonable to attend a camp that is not nut free. The camp should have treatment protocols in place for the treatment of an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis. Staff should also be trained on the proper use of an epinephrine auto-injector (ex. EpiPenⓇ). The camp should also track their inventory of EpiPenⓇ so that one will be readily available to use in an emergency.
If your child has a severe, life threatening food allergy, then you may want to consider a nut free camp. Remember that while a camp be nut free, it is never totally risk free. A visitor might bring something onto camp that contains nuts or you child could be exposed off of camp. For this reason, it is critical that even nut free camps have protocols in place for the treatment of an allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, including staff training in the use of EpiPensⓇ.
To ensure an EpiPenⓇ is available in an emergency, we recommend that you send 2 EpiPensⓇ to camp, in addition to whatever stock the camp may supply. If your child leaves camp on outings, an EpiPenⓇ should travel with him or her. Ideally, your camper should be accompanied by a staff member who can assist them in an emergency.
Many children with food allergies do very well in camp settings and their camp experience is not impacted by this issue. Be sure to partner with your camp director by being honest about your concerns and your child’s medical issues. And finally, consult with your physician before making any decision about which camp to attend.