Camp Responsibilities: Establishing Protocols to Prevent and Respond to Food-Allergic Reactions

Published by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) on Jun 25, 2019

It’s estimated that each year, more than 11 million children and adults attend a camp. Throughout the U.S., there are more than 12,000 day and summer camps, run by nonprofit organizations, religious organizations or private entities. Camps provide wonderful opportunities for enrichment and socialization.

For the nearly six million children in the U.S. with food allergies, it’s important that camps have established food allergy policies. Food allergy reactions occur without warning and can even occur for the first time while a child, or even a staff member, is at camp.

Having a written food allergy policy in place ensures that staff members are well-equipped to care for anyone who may experience a food allergy reaction while at camp.

Camps should find out whether their state allows them to keep “stock” epinephrine on hand in case someone who has not been previously diagnosed with a food allergy has an allergic reaction. Camp staff should know where epinephrine is stored and be trained on how to administer it.

Creating a Camp Food Allergy Policy
Know about the availability of emergency care, including:
  • how to contact emergency medical personnel/ambulance;
  • how much time it will take for an emergency crew to arrive;
  • how far it is to the nearest hospital; and
  • if the hospital has a physician present at all times.

Note that camps in rural settings must understand that ambulance and emergency crews may be volunteers. These emergency situations may require additional plans and medications.

Review the health records submitted by parents and physicians.

Establish prevention protocols for your camp.

  • Be certain that all food service or kitchen personnel are aware of, and can identify, campers with food allergies.
  • Discuss meal plans with parents and the camper. Make alternative plans if necessary.
  • Plan how a camper with food allergies will take part in meals. For example, he or she might need to go first in a buffet line and at other food-related events to avoid cross-contact. Or, the camper might need to sit apart from other campers, in a special allergen-free space. In the latter case, try to have someone sit with the camper so he or she doesn’t feel excluded.
  • Make sure that all staff can recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction and know what to do if a reaction occurs.
  • Maintain an appropriate sense of confidentiality and respect for individual privacy.
  • Make sure the nurse has the required authorizations and appropriate medications to use in the event of accidental contact or ingestion.

Ensure that appropriate personnel are familiar with how to use epinephrine, where the medication is located and the camp protocol.

  • Schedule a training session before the start of camp. Allow participants to become familiar with how to operate the different types of epinephrine auto-injectors.
  • Comply with local and state regulations about the administration of medication.

Plan for field trips or offsite activities.

  • Be certain any emergency medications and authorizations go with the camper and staff.
  • On trips away from the camp, staff should always carry a communication device (e.g., cell phone, two-way radio).
  • Some medications, such as epinephrine, become ineffective if exposed to temperature extremes (heat or cold) or light. Be certain that all personnel understand the importance of keeping medication protected.

For additional information and resources on creating a safe and positive experience for campers with food allergies, visit FARE’s camp web page.