Sending your child to summer camp can be worrying for any parent. For parents of kids with allergies or asthma, it’s even more worrying. It’s tough to keep the balance between keeping them safe and letting them participate freely.
The good news is that more and more summer camps are becoming aware of what goes into keeping a child with allergies and asthma safe and make sure that they are the right protections in place. Your best bet is to look around for the best fit for your child and be specific about their needs. Ask a lot of questions to make sure you have picked the right place.
Here are some questions you can ask:
- Who is the primary heathcare/first aid person? What training have they received? Who takes over if this person is absent?
- Where are emergency medicines kept? How far is this from where your child’s activities take place?
- How are children’s medical concerns communicated and monitored? This is especially important for young children who may not be able to communicate their condition themselves.
- How far is the camp from the nearest hospital?
- Does the camp take trips away from the campground? How far will this be from the hospital? How does the camp make sure that all medications are brought with them?
- Make sure that the staff can handle potential emergencies – that they know what to do if a severe allergic or asthmatic reaction occur, not just how to give adrenaline or an inhaler, but when to call for an ambulance, where the nearest hospital is and what’s the quickest route.
Going to camp is a great way for kids with allergies and asthma to gain independence and to prove to themselves and their parents that they can handle their health concerns and speak up for themselves.
Things to consider before going to summer camp
Once you have found a camp that’s a good fit, make sure they have everything they need to keep your child safe:
- MEDICAL FORMS – Camps will usually give emergency information forms for you to fill in medical information. You may need to provide medical forms from yourself – a medical authorisation form, or your doctor – medical history, allergies and medications. You could talk to the camp leader directly to discuss your child’s allergies. Make sure they let all camp personnel know about your child’s allergy and find out who is trained to administer adrenaline.
- ACTION PLAN – Make sure you provide an action plan for emergencies, even if the camp already has one in place. This is a great time to review your plan and make any necessary changes. You can find some sample action plans here: http://www.bsaci.org/about/download-paediatric-allergy-action-plans and here: http://ifan.ie/food-allergy-in-summary/managing-an-allergic-reaction-sample-emergency-plan/
- MEDICATIONS – Make sure you send all of their medications (adrenaline pens, anti-histamines, asthma and nasal inhalers) with them, send enough to do them the entire time that they are away and you could also spend some spares. Make sure that the prescriptions are up to date and double check the expiration dates.
- ADRENALINE STORAGE – Make sure that staff know how to use the adrenaline pen and know where it is kept. Adrenaline shouldn’t be kept in extreme heat, direct sunlight or be refrigerated so make sure the staff know and provide appropriate protection in case. If you’re worried about the adrenaline being left out in the heat, a FRIO wallet can be used to keep the adrenaline at the correct temperature. The adrenaline should be kept close enough to the child so that there is no delay in giving it if it is needed. If your child is old enough, they should carry it with them at all times. If they are too young to carry it with them, then keep it somewhere close by. Make sure they adrenaline is kept safe in an appropriate case such as a wallet that can be worn around the waist, an armband or a protective case if it is not going to be carried around.
Going to camp is a big change from your child’s normal routine so make sure that you both sit down and identify the situations where there may be trouble and figure out what to do in case of emergency.
Make sure their allergy is known with an allergy alert bracelet or necklace
Since camp is a new environment, it may be safest to make sure they wear an allergy alert bracelet or necklace. This will serve as a reminder to the staff of your child’s allergy.
Food Allergy Tips
If your child has food allergies, speak to staff about meals and snacks that are provided to ensure that your child is accommodated.
- Ask them about areas where cross contamination could occur.
- Find out how the camp communicates and monitors food allergy information.
- If your child is going to a day camp, it may be easier to send a packed lunch to guarantee they are eating safe foods.
- Remind them not to eat other kid’s foods.
A medical alert bracelet should be considered. They come in lots of different sizes, colours and materials to make them appealing to kids.
Questions to ask:
- What foods are included with the meals?
- Are there any allergen exclusions in place such as peanut/tree nut bans?
- Should you send safe food and snacks?
- Is there a nurse or someone who is trained to deal with medical emergencies?
- Where is the nearest medical facility?
Insect Sting Allergy Tips
- Make sure that everyone at the camp is aware of the allergy and that they should give adrenaline and call an ambulance immediately if your child is stung.
- Give them an action plan laying out all of this information that they can rely on in an emergency.
- An alert bracelet is essential to let others know in case of emergency.
- Make sure that they have two doses of adrenaline at all times.
Tips to help avoid bees and wasps:
- Don’t drink directly from a bottle or a can as bees and wasps can hide inside.
- Keep food covered.
- Wear light coloured clothing as bees and wasps are attracted to darker clothing
- Don’t walk around barefoot.
- If you see a bee or a wasp, back away slowly. Sudden movements can increase their attack behaviour or lead to accidental contact.
Pollen Allergy Tips
At summer camp, kids often spend a lot of time outdoors which leads to nose and eye itching, congestion, and sneezing. This increase in pollen exposure may require an increase in allergy medications.
After spending time outdoors, it may be best to take a bath or shower and change clothes, especially before bed.
Pollen exposure, heat, humidity and exercise are all common to summer camps but they can also trigger an asthma attack.
- ACTION PLAN – You should send an asthma action plan which outlines your child’s medications and an escalation plan.
- MEDICATIONS – Make sure your child brings their medications with them at all times.
- MEDICATION STORAGE – A sports asthma inhaler case can be helpful to ensure that they are carrying it even while out and about.
- If they have allergies as well as asthma, a medication bag may be necessary in order to hold all of their medicines.
A little preparation can help your child enjoy the best quality of life without missing out on the fun of summer camp. Good communication between you, your child and the camp staff will take (most of) the worry out of summer camp.
Image Credit: FreeImages.com/Brierley
Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Allergy Lifestyle Limited (t/a) Allergy Lifestyle) uses reasonable endeavours to check the accuracy of information provided however no warranty is given that they are error-free.