School camp is a rite of passage for children and teenagers. For those suffering from food allergies, however, there are extra preparations and precautions that are needed. As most parents of a child with food allergy know, the risk of accidental exposure to food allergens is increased when meals are eaten away from home1. To ensure camp is a safe and fun experience, the child, parents, teachers and camp staff must work together to minimise the risk.
It is important to have a plan in place before your child heads off on school camp. Firstly, make sure they have an up-to-date allergy Action Plan2. This plan includes a list of the foods your child is allergic to, their medications and who to contact in case of an emergency. The Action Plan, which is completed by your child’s doctor, should also include a photo of your child. If medications are required, like an adrenaline auto-injector, then this is a good time to make sure they are in date. Also, ensure that your child has adequate supply of medications for the duration of the camp.
It is likely that your child’s school and teachers will already know about their food allergy. It is also essential to notify the camp of the allergy well in advance of the planned trip. Making personal contact with the manager or director of the camp to discuss your child’s allergy can help the planning process. Topics to discuss can include what current allergy risk minimisation strategies are in place and what staff training is provided on recognition and treatment of allergies (for example staff training in the use of adrenaline auto-injectors). The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy has e-training courses for schools which can be used for camp staff training1.
Another priority to discuss with the camp is how far away the nearest medical facilities are located. Also you will want to know how these medical services can be contacted in case of emergency. This is particularly important if the camp is outside of mobile phone range or if the campers are going out hiking or canoeing.
Before the camp, also check if the camp kitchen is equipped to prepare meals for your child. If appropriate, you may want to send extra allergen free foods or snacks along for your child. Camp staff can help at meal times by making sure children wash their hands prior to meals and discourage sharing of food.
Your child also has a part to play in minimising the risk of allergen exposure. Reinforce the importance of not sharing and eating foods with unknown ingredients. If your child is old enough, go through label reading and how to check ingredient lists. They should also be aware of allergy symptoms and be pro-active in seeking out help if they do start to experience an allergic reaction.
Food allergy can add an extra layer of complexity to school camps, however with the right planning, all children can safely enjoy the experience.
- Vale et al. 2015. ASCIA Guidelines for prevention of anaphylaxis in schools, pre-schools and childcare: 2015 Update. Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Viewed 8 August 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/health-professionals/papers/prevent-anaphylaxis-in-schools-childcare
- 2016. ASCIA Action Plans for Anaphylaxis. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. Viewed 8 August 2016. http://www.allergy.org.au/health-professionals/anaphylaxis-resources/ascia-action-plan-for-anaphylaxis
- 2016. Managing Food Allergies at School Camps. Food Allergy Research and Education. Viewed 8 August 2016. http://www.foodallergy.org/managing-food-allergies/at-camp