Peanuts, eggs and shellfish may seem harmless when they are on a plate, but to more than five per cent of the population who suffer from food allergies they can be deadly. Food allergies, especially when severe, can cause anaphylaxis. Symptoms can include a rash, swelling of the throat or tongue, shortness of breath and/or trouble breathing and low blood pressure. Sometimes it can be fatal.
As a parent of a child with food allergies, you may feel anxious about sending your child away for a weeklong stay at summer camp. But there are some things you can do beforehand to prepare both you and your child for a safe, worry-free week away at camp.
Call the camp in advance
Once you’ve decided on the ideal summer camp, there’s no harm in giving them a call to speak with a director to get a feel for the camp’s food allergy preparedness. Inquire about onsite medical staff, where the epinephrine autoinjectors are kept, the location of the closest medical facility and how the food is prepared safely for guests with food allergies.
Muskoka Woods, for example, is more than happy to accommodate the dietary needs of your child. Simply inform the camp of your child’s allergies when you register. Also, due to the number of guests and staff with nut allergies, all meals are served nut-free and the camp asks that parents do not send any snacks with their children containing nuts of any sort.
Muskoka Woods doesn’t just meet the Ontario Camping Association’s standards of healthcare – they exceed them. The Healthcare Centre is staffed all summer long by a head nurse and healthcare crew. Each week, a doctor-and-nurse team joins the camp to ensure the best care possible.
Have a food safety conversation with your child
Your child’s specific food allergies shouldn’t come as a surprise to them, but it doesn’t hurt to go over some last-minute food safety tips before they leave for camp. Remind them not to share food with other campers or eat snacks that other campers have brought from home. Also remind them that it’s okay to ask questions about the food that’s being served, including how it was prepared.
Pack an EpiPen
Ensure that your child arrives at camp with an epinephrine auto injector. Feel free to drop it off at Muskoka Woods’ Healthcare Centre on Super Saturday. The medication will be administered as per the guest’s needs — but hopefully not at all.
Jamie Hunter is a freelance content specialist living in Dundas, Ont. with his wife, nine-year-old daughter and five-year-old son. Over the past 15 years, he has contributed to a variety of national lifestyle and entertainment print publications and worked in corporate communications roles at Harbourfront Centre and the University of Toronto. A self-described amateur entomologist, wannabe ornithologist, and fair-weather angler, on weekends he can be found covered in dirt tending to his gardens.