It's time to start thinking about summer camp and I am of the firm belief that kids with food allergies should be able to enjoy some type of camp experience. It can be scary for parents to let kids do this, but it can be really rewarding and a good means of boosting your child's self-esteem about their ability to handle their allergy in a variety of situations. If you're not comfortable with overnight, half-day or day camps are a good first step.
FAAN is going to be offering several nut-free summer camps for allergic kids and their siblings (whether allergic or not) in 2011. Limited locations will be available across the country.
My daughter attended Girl Scout day camp as well as an academic day camp and both experiences were wonderful. However, we needed to do our homework and get the staff ready to deal with food allergies.
Luckily, both camps had experience with the issue and the worst thing that happened was that my daughter scraped her foot on the bottom of the pool.
To get your allergic child prepared for camp, check the camp enrollment info for an allergy section. Many camps now have these, so provide detailed information.
Next, you'll want to have a discussion with the camp staff and/or director. How do they manage food during the day? Can your child bring their own? Does the camp serve peanut butter (or other possible food allergens) and if so, how do they keep allergic campers safe? Most camps with outdoor activities have an EMT or medical professional on site, so this person should also be given info about your child. If this is not the case, you'll want to ask about who knows how to use an EpiPen or an asthma inhaler. Again, most camps now offer this training but you always need to ask.
Here are some more summer camp links.
Best Allergy Sites has a great lineup of tips and also further links for you to explore.
FAAN offers a resource guide for parents who want to enroll allergic kids in camp.
Food Allergy Initiative provides wonderful tips and checklists.
For those of you with older kids who have attended camps or plan to attend camps, what have your experiences been like?