ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (February 18, 2020) – When choosing the right summer camp for your child with allergies or asthma, it’s not just about whether they prefer horseback riding to sailing. It’s more about figuring out what kind of program best fits your child’s medical needs related to allergy and asthma symptoms.
“Parents and kids alike who are dealing with asthma or severe allergies need to know there’s a good fit and that the child’s medical needs are being met,” says allergist J. Allen Meadows, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Take the time to research camps you think your child will enjoy and ask the hard questions to make sure your child will be well cared for.”
Below are suggestions from ACAAI on how to narrow down your camp selection while keeping your child’s allergies and asthma in mind.
- Consider a specialty camp – If you’re worried that a regular sleepaway or day camp might not be fully prepared to handle your child’s allergies and asthma, consider a specialty camp. Increasingly, there are camps focused solely on kids with asthma, and camps that deal specifically with food allergies. These camps provide specialized medical and non-medical staff who understand how to treat allergic diseases. An internet search should turn up a camp in your area that can provide the special focus your camper might need.
- Maybe day camp is a better option – If you and your camper are both concerned about the possibility of a severe allergic reaction or asthma flare, a day camp may be a better option – particularly for a younger child. Most day camps have provisions in place to keep kids with allergies and asthma safe. They welcome discussions about what your child can and cannot eat, and what they need to have on hand in case of a severe allergic reaction, or an asthma attack. Make sure the camp you choose has dealt with allergies and asthma before, knows where the nearest hospital is and how to get there, and is aware of the specific needs of your child.
- Wherever they go, they’ll need to eat – Food is a big part of any camp experience, particularly sleepaway camp. If your child has a food allergy, talk with the kitchen staff to make sure no areas exist where cross contamination can occur. Find out how the camp monitors and communicates food allergy information and determine whether that works for you and your child. If your child will be attending day camp, send a bag lunch to guarantee they will be eating safe foods. Remind them that eating other kids’ food is never okay.
- Talk with your allergist before deciding – Your allergist may have insights into which type of program will best suit your child. They can also offer tips on communicating with camp personnel about your child’s medications and specific allergy or asthma treatments. Your allergist should confirm prescriptions are up to date, symptoms are under control and dosing hasn’t changed over the school year. They can also provide a personalized plan for you to share with the camp to help your child have the great experience they deserve.
- Everybody ready? – You can help the camp staff and administration be prepared by communicating your child’s health needs well in advance. If asthma makes some activities difficult for your child, let their counselor know. Ask the camp what level of physical activities will be involved, what the focus of each day will be and how meals are handled. And convey your expectations to the camp. Tell the staff how you want your child’s medical routine handled and discuss what your child needs in order to fully participate in all activities.
To ensure your child has a great summer, do some advance preparation to make sure the camp you select can meet medical needs while allowing for a great camping experience.