Keeping your child with food allergies safe at camp requires the same attention and care that you give to keeping your child safe at school—it’s a process that requires careful planning and a team approach. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) can help guide you along.

There are hundreds of camp options in the Washington, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland area. Summer camps offer a great opportunity to provide your child with enrichment, a chance to make new friends and a way to stay active during the long summer break. And whether your child wants to attend a sport, art, dance or any other of the myriad camps available, doing your homework on the camp’s food allergy management policies is essential.

Once you and your child have settled on the type of camp  she would like to attend, it’s time to do some research. If it’s a half-day camp, is there a snack time? If it’s a full-day camp, do you need to provide a snack and a lunch? Overnight camps present their own sets of challenges.

Before registering your child, make some inquiries. Call or visit the camp to find out what procedures are in place to care for campers with food allergies. Ask questions such as:

  • Who will be preparing and providing food for your child? If the camp does this, are they trained/educated on providing safe meals and preventing cross-contact in the kitchen area?
  • How often will your child be eating while at the camp; i.e., is there snack time and lunch time?
  • Are the campers encouraged to wash their hands after eating?
  • Will the campers be going on any field trips, and if so, who is designated to care for campers with food allergies and carry an epinephrine auto-injector—the first-line treatment in cases of anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death—(if applicable and if the camper does not self-carry) on such trips?
  • Where will the epinephrine be kept so that it is accessible at all times?  (If your child does not yet self-carry)
  • Which staff members have been trained to recognize an allergic reaction and administer epinephrine?
  • How will an allergic emergency be handled?
  • How far is the nearest hospital, and are local EMS (911) personnel equipped with epinephrine?

Once you’ve decided on a camp and have registered your child, make sure that she has a written Food Allergy Action Plan (FAAP)—signed by your child’s allergist— that addresses the steps that must be taken in the event of an allergic reaction. If you don’t already have such a plan, FAAN’s website, foodallergy.org, offers a free downloadable FAAP that outlines symptoms, treatment and provides instructions for the administration of epinephrine. It is also a good idea to meet with the camp director  to discuss further accommodations that your child may need and work together to develop a plan for how these accommodations will be met.

Provide the camp with a FAAP, medical documentation and medications (check expiration dates) as prescribed by your child’s physician.

Every camp employee who is assigned to care for your child should be trained in using an epinephrine auto-injector. No other medication can reverse the symptoms of anaphylaxis.

There’s also one more person you need to talk to about this camp experience—your child! Before camp starts, review the basics of food allergy safety with your child. Emphasize the importance of never eating anything that has not been approved by you or a designated adult, as well as  the importance of telling a counselor or camp staff member as soon as she does not feel well. If your child will carry (and potentially self-administer)  her epinephrine, this is also a great time to practice its use.

With advance planning, you can take care of most of the legwork prior to the first day of camp. As we often say, education is the key to staying safe with food allergies.


Nancy Gregory is an assistant editor at the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). To become a member or for more information about food allergies, including Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies at Camp, written in collaboration with the Association of Camp Nurses, visit foodallergy.org.