Now that summer is right around the corner, families are starting to think ahead to sending their child off to day camp or sleep-away camp. This is considered to be a rite of passage for many kids. But parents who have children with severe allergies — to peanut products or plants, for example — might wonder whether it’s even safe to send their child to summer camp. The good news is that it can be done, provided that you conduct some thorough research and take ample precautions. Here’s how to make sure the summer camp experience will be a healthy and happy one for your child.
Make sure their records are up-to-date
With so many staff members at any given camp, the best source of information for them will be your child’s medical records. At this point, camp staff is likely used to consulting allergy records, as 4% of children under the age of 18 have known food allergies. But you’ll need to make absolutely sure that the medical records and prescription information you provide are accurate and clear. You should also go over meal information and camp activities in detail with key staff members — and get everything in writing — to ensure that your expectations will be met every step of the way.
Ask about training protocols
When your child is away at camp (particularly if it’s in a remote area), you’ll need to depend on knowledgeable staff members as the first line of defense in the event of an allergic reaction. Although up to 65% of all ER episodes can be treated in urgent care facilities, an allergic reaction can be a true medical emergency. Therefore, you’ll need to assess whether the camp you’ve chosen is truly up to that task. Any well-run facility should have very specific protocols in place for dealing with allergies and you should absolutely ask what these protocols are. You need to know for certain that these situations are handled as recommended by experts and that you will be notified along every step of the way. You need to know that all staff members are properly trained and will know when to call 911 in case of an attack — even with medication on-hand.
Visit your doctor beforehand
Although nearly six out of 10 households report that at least one of the residents has gone camping, things become a bit more complicated when you need to bring medication along. To alleviate the possibility of running out of medications or being caught without the right kind, it’s important for families to visit their designated doctors well in advance to ensure the camper has everything they need before going off to camp. Considering how difficult many families have found it to find and buy EpiPens at their local pharmacies, you should prioritize this and take care of it ASAP. Since many camps will accept only the EpiPen brand due to differences in training, you may not be able to get away with a generic brand here. Your doctor may be able to provide an EpiPen sample until your prescription is able to be filled, but that won’t do when it’s time to head off to camp. So give yourself plenty of time to get what your child needs.
It’s understandable that you may have concerns about sending your child away to summer camp, regardless of whether or not there are health issues at play. But by planning ahead and asking a lot of questions, you can gain valuable peace of mind and know your child is in excellent hands this season.