Whether you are sending your child off to sleep away or day camp, certain things remain the same for children with food allergies or sensitivities. Above all else they, and those responsible for them at camp, must do everything they can to keep them safe. I must borrow from the Scout's motto, "Be prepared", to express the best way to achieve your child's optimal safety while away from home.
First of all, prepare a memo to be given to the camp director, nurse, and counselors who will be dealing directly with your child. I use this one for Lillie, and include a list of problematic ingredients found on www.celiac.org, as well as a snack list, such as this one from www.dallasrock.org.
For Rosie, I have an allergy information sheet with her allergies and Epipen instructions in bold. I also include mine and my husband's cell phone numbers, so time isn't wasted going through the files to look this information up. I send a fanny pack for the counselor with her Epipen, asthma inhaler, Benadryl and a copy of the sheet.
I make sure to make an appointment too meet with the relevant people, before camp begins. The first day is usually chaos, and that is not the time to teach a 16 year old counselor how to use an Epipen for the first time.Take your kids, or a picture of them, when you meet with director/counselor, so they are familiar with your child.
This year I purchased very cute medic-alert necklaces. I include their allergies, sensitivities, name and home phone. Lauren's Hope has a great variety of products sure to please any child or adult. The classic medic- alert bracelets and necklaces are kind of boring for a child, and in turn, they may be reluctant to wear them...add a princess or some funky beads, and now they've got bling! The plastic bracelets are also an appealing solution for many children. My highly food allergic babysitter recently told me how she saved a 3 year old from popping a peanut chew at a party recently when she recognized the child's plastic "Peanut Allergy" wrist band.
Lauren's Hope is giving reader's of this blog 10% off your order with the code GLUTENFREE on the check out page. I really feel more at peace of mind when my children wear these necklaces.
Pack appropriate snacks. My daughters' camp provides two snacks a day. I spoke to the counselors about giving my kids the snacks they can have, but on any given day there may not be appropriate choices. Rosie likes to play it safe and stick with what I pack either way.
Luna Protein Bars that are gluten free. They do have allergens such as peanuts and tree nuts, so check if it suits your child's needs. But for those that are only dealing with a gluten free diet, they are a great choice. The new flavors include cookie dough, chocolate cherry almond and chocolate peanut butter. These are great to send along a bunch for sleep away kids or in a lunch for a day camper. It can be a real pick-me-up during a hike or just a long day. Be considerate and check with your child's camp regarding restrictions in terms of nuts.
Don't forget to send those special homemade treats. Today there are a number of camps just for celiac kids, and others that are training their cooks regarding food allergies and special diets.Whether you are sending your child to one of these camps or not, I strongly suggest you speak to other parents whose children have similar concerns to your's and get their recommendations on specific camps. A R.O.C.K. support group is a good place to start. Although many camp directors think they can accommodate your special needs, you need to know it is not just theoretical, and ensure that there is follow through.
Sending pre-made meals and baked goods is a good way to ensure your child won't go hungry if there is a mix-up. I am a huge fan of vacuum sealers for meals. They can be re-heated as a boil in bag or in the microwave. They keep food fresher longer and avoid cross contamination on re-heating. Food does need to be frozen or refrigerated if it normally would be stored that way. A vacuum sealer doesn't make perishable foods shelf stable.
With some legwork and a good attitude, your child with special dietary needs can have a great camping experience along with their peers...enjoy the summer!