How can I Prepare My Child with Food Allergies for Overnight Camp?

As a parent with a child who has food allergies, the thought of sending them to overnight camp by themselves can be terrifying. Let’s take a closer look into both food allergies and food intolerances so that you know just how to advise your child and their camp before sending them away:

 

Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance

 

Food allergies are reproducible reactions which occur immediately after consuming the food. These reactions can include the development of itchiness, rash, or hives or it can also involve vomiting, low blood pressure, or difficulty breathing. Food allergies are mediated through the IgE pathway and severe reactions can be life-threatening.

Food intolerances, on the other hand, are not life-threatening and most typically occur following consumption of dairy and gluten.These are not allergic reactions and often are the result of the lack of enzymes in the body to digest the components of the food. Symptoms can include bloating, flatulence, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, etc.

While children with food allergies should strictly avoid the food that they’re allergic to, children with food intolerances may still consume the food which causes symptoms, however they should do so in moderation.

 

How to prepare my child for camp

 

    Before going away to camp, you should take your child to see their allergist who can make a food allergy action plan. This plan will instruct the camp of any food allergies your child may have and what to do in case of accidental exposure. Make sure your epinephrine auto-injector is not expired and that you have ample supply so that you can leave a few with the camp. It’s important that your child’s EpiPen be available at all times in case of an anaphylactic reaction and, if your child is too young to carry their own EpiPen, it should be left with a trusted adult who will be monitoring your child. In case of an anaphylactic reaction, epinephrine should be administered and the camp should call 911.

    The best way to ensure that your child has a safe and fun summer is to avoid any accidental ingestion. Instruct your child to never share food with friends and to always ask an adult if they are unsure if a food contains their allergen. Always err on the side of caution and avoid consuming a food if you are unsure. For more tips please follow the link below. We hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer!

Weihong Zheng, M.D.