Choosing a Food Allergy-Friendly Camp

With summer fast approaching, parents may be scrambling to find an appropriate summer camp for their children. For parents who have children with food allergies, the search includes an additional challenge–finding a camp with a staff that knows something about food allergies and is prepared to act in the event of a severe reaction.

You can begin your search by seeking referrences from friends and family, or by performing a search at the American Camp Association. Although the search form doesn’t allow you to search specifically for camps that specialize in accommodating the needs of children with food allergies, it can help you track down camps you may want to check out based on other criteria.

Once you have a list of camps that interest you and your child, call the camp administrator and ask the following questions to determine which camp will most likely be able to provide the best accommodations for your child with food allergies:

  • Has the camp had other campers with food allergies and how has it handled these cases? (You may be able to have the camp put you in touch with parents of children with food allergies who attended the camp and are willing to talk with you.)
  • Who’s the medical person in charge and who’s second in command (for when the primary medical person is unavailable)? Ask about their credentials and their knowledge and experience in dealing with food allergies.
  • Where will your child’s epinephrine and other medications be stored and how readily available will they be? Can your child carry her own medications? How many people at the camp will be trained in giving the epinephrine shots?
  • How far away is the nearest emergency medical treatment? Onsite emergency care may be insufficient in a case of very severe reaction.
  • What outings may the camper be going on during her stay? How accessible are medications and emergency treatment on these outings?
  • Does the camp have a system in place to keep all camp personnel well informed?

In most states, the camp cannot provide medicines or just keep epinephrine on hand. Each family must provide the medications for their child. You can never depend on others even if they are supposed to have it.

For additional information on managing food allergies at camp, check out the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, specifically its Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies at Camp.