Are you prepared to send your food allergic child to camp?
As parents of children with life threatening food allergies, we’ve all learned how new situations create the need for new safety strategies. In the case of camp, you may say to yourself … What new strategies? My child will bring her lunch to camp just the same way she does at school. In reality however, camp situations may be different than school.
Depending on the severity of the allergy(ies), your child’s age, and the camp she is attending, many new variables can come into play. Here are a few you may want to think about.
1. CAMP ENVIRONMENT
The environment at camp is different from school in so many ways. Think of the weather and the people surrounding your child at camp. These two things alone are critical in creating a new pathway for a successful summer.
Is there a place to keep lunches cool? Are the lunches kept in an air conditioned building or outside under a tree? You may consider purchasing a mini cooler or larger lunchbox with more space for ice to keep his food fresh.
Does your child carry her own epinephrine auto injector? Be sure to replace expired medication and work with the camp to keep it from being kept in extreme temperatures for long periods of time. Maybe it can be kept in the locker room while he is swimming in the pool or lake. Make sure your child knows how to safely care for his or her own medication and the staff is trained to use it.
2. MAKING NEW FRIENDS
Of course you need to think about the new friends your child will meet. You may need to prepare your child to have a conversation with her new friends surrounding her food allergy safety. At school your daughter has certain resources that she has developed. Her friends know about her food allergies who can make her feel safe. Also, she can trust/confide in certain teachers who know her and subconsciously look out for her. At camp there is a quick turnover from week to week and the players may change in the mix. You may need to help your son or daughter find out whom they can confide in.
Counselors are different than teachers. Some are young and may be less capable of handling or preventing emergency situations. Others may have their own food allergies or may have worked with children who have allergies different from those of your child.
You may want to ask the camp director if you can speak with the counselors on the phone before the first day of camp to assure you have their full attention. Pick up and drop off times are hectic and may not be the best venue to have this crucial conversation.
4. BRINGING YOUR OWN FOOD
If your child’s camp provide snacks, you may need to bring your own safe food alternatives for your child and leave them at camp. You may need to find a new menu or send different foods in your child’s lunch. If either the camp or the school is Kosher and the opposite is not, bringing meat may be a new possibility or if your child is allergic to dairy, it may leave you with more limited options.
5. LEAD BY EXAMPLE!
The things you do to prepare to send your child to camp will help provide him with appropriate training and guidance. Transitioning from school to camp is one situation with many new variables and resources.
With whatever action you take, make sure to include your child so they can learn how to better advocate for their own safety. You can help your child pave the way for a successful summer and many other successful future transitions.
In addition to offering one on one coaching sessions, Your Food Allergy Coach also offers training workshops for camp and school staff to help provide safety, awareness, and prevention of food allergy emergencies. My goal for all my clients is to create a happy family lifestyle in spite of your child’s food allergies.
Enjoy your summer!