February 12, 2019
What to know about allergies before your child goes to camp?
Camp is an excellent opportunity for kids to meet new people, build skills, and try different activities. However, it can be stressful for parents, and allergies don’t make things easier.
If your child has outdoor allergies or asthma, or food allergies, camp can be full of trigger risks. The right knowledge and proper precautions can help your child stay safe while creating a season full of happy memories.
What allergy risks are at camp?
Outdoor, seasonal, and environmental allergies
Outdoor allergies are usually caused by seasonal changes, often associated with the blooming cycle of certain trees, weeds, and grasses.
Environmental allergies are caused by allergens specific to your location, either indoors or outdoors. These may include:
● Animal allergies
● Dust mites
● Bee stings
More than 60 million people in the United States alone have some type of allergy. The type and severity of allergy symptoms vary from person to person. Common environmental and outdoor allergy symptoms include:
● Stuffy/runny nose
● Itchy, watery eyes
● Dark circles under eyes
A true food allergy is an immunologic reaction to a food protein. Food allergy symptoms can range from minor to life-threatening, and may include:
● Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction that can restrict the airway)
● Mouth itching
● Swelling of the lips or mouth or other parts of the body
● Nausea, vomiting, or delayed diarrhea
● Asthma symptoms, such as wheezing or shortness of breath
Eight types of foods are responsible for nearly 90% of food allergies:
● Tree Nuts
Even when they are not life-threatening, allergy symptoms can make parents worry, and take the fun out of a child’s camp experience.
How to protect your child from food and outdoor allergies at camp
Be proactive rather than reactive. Print out these allergy cards that can be handed to your camp counselors!
Outdoor allergies are best managed with prevention. This may involve:
● Packing extra allergy medicine in case of a flare-up
● Making sure your child keeps an inhaler or epinephrine on hand
● Packing hypoallergenic bedding and pillows
● Visiting the pediatrician or allergist before camp to check medication dosage and create an allergy response action plan
Make sure your child is prepared to manage their allergies. Depending on their age, they should know:
● When and how often to take allergy medication, and the proper dosage
● How to avoid exposure to allergens whenever possible (for example, avoid wearing bright clothing or fragrances that can attract stinging insects)
● Which activities are safe or unsafe for outdoor allergies (for example, avoiding sitting close to campfires if smoke is an asthma trigger)
● Their outdoor allergy symptoms
● How and when to tell an adult about a possible allergic reaction
● How to use epinephrine
If your child is very young, you may have to coordinate with the camp staff to make sure they understand food and outdoor allergy safety.
Communicate with camp leaders.
Once you have found a potential camp for your child to attend, contact the administration to ask any questions you may have.This may include:
● Who is the primary healthcare person on staff? Who covers for that person if they are unavailable?
● How does the camp communicate and monitor allergy information? Does it work for your child’s needs?
● Is the camp close to an emergency room or other medical treatment center?
● What is the camp protocol in an emergency?
Provide the camp with any necessary medical forms and emergency contact information. Include your child’s allergies, usual allergy symptoms, and medications.
Start building up your child’s allergy resistance.
Even before you choose a camp for your child, you can help them build up long-term resistance to allergens with immunotherapy in the form of allergy drops or shots.
Allergy shots can be used against allergies like molds, pollen, dust, and animal dander in children aged 5 years or older. Treatment generally takes between 3-5 years for long-term relief, so the sooner you start your child on immunotherapy, the better.
Allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy, can be taken at home by patients as young as 4 months old. Clinical studies have proven allergy drops to be an effective alternative to allergy shots. Allergy drops are easier for many patients and have been found to have less adverse reactions compared with allergy shots.