Gluten Free Summer Camp Options & Issues

It's summertime alright - hot weather, days are longer, and our R.O.C.K. Stars(celiac kids) are on to their summer schedules. For some parents, this means a break from the hardships of worrying about packed lunches and contamination risks at school. But what if your gluten free child has summer plans like sports camps, academic camps, or summer day camps? What if the facility doesn't offer help or understanding to your child's specific needs?

One of our R.O.C.K. Stars, Erin, went to Camp Weekaneatit in Winder, Georgia again this year. This is a gluten free camp which is sponsored by Georgia R.O.C.K.(Raising Our Celiac Kids) and is 5 days of fun and fellowship between children who all eat gluten free. Last year was their first successful camp and Erin went along as the youngest female camper at only 8 years old. She was somewhat scared and homesick at times, but she never stopped talking about going back and all the fun she experienced. So this May 31st, she packed up and headed back down to Winder and Camp Weekaneatit for another week of gluten free companionship. This time, she walked in with her head high and was the expert camper who won the Helping Hands Award for her cabin. Best of all, her parents never had to worry that she would be contaminated or feel left out.

Camp Weekaneatit 2010

But sadly, we have heard parents tell stories of struggling through dealing with sending their children to a regular camp. In one such story, the mother has not been able to get a menu of the camp week with ingredients to look over since emailing them starting in March. The staff have not even heard of celiac disease nor what gluten is - how in the world can she feel secure in allowing her child to go to camp? Of course the answer is that she can't. They have decided to rent a room at a place locally which has a small kitchen for them to prepare their meals - all at their expense of course. This is the reality of living with an allergen which prohibits your child from participating in the basic need of eating.

It is our mission to provide parents with resources which help them in their goals of raising a healthy gluten free child. Any school or camp which is taking care of and feeding children are held to federal, state, and district laws. Therefore,below are some basic school guidelines that are laid out in the FAAN(Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) which could apply to all sensitivities of severity as well.

If a food allergen has been well documented and has medical backing by a professional - the school’s responsibility is as follows:

•Be knowledgeable about and follow applicable federal laws including ADA, IDEA, Section 504, and FERPA and any state laws or district policies that apply.

•Review the health records submitted by parents and physicians.

•Include food-allergic students in school activities. Students should not be excluded from school activities solely based on their food allergy.

•Identify a core team of, but not limited to, school nurse, teacher, principal, school food service and nutrition manager/director, and counselor (if available) to work with parents and the student (age appropriate) to establish a prevention plan. Changes to the prevention plan to promote food allergy management should be made with core team participation.

•Assure that all staff who interact with the student on a regular basis understands food allergy, can recognize symptoms, knows what to do in an emergency, and works with other school staff to eliminate the use of food allergens in the allergic student’s meals, educational tools, arts and crafts projects, or incentives.

•Practice the Food Allergy Action Plans before an allergic reaction occurs to assure the efficiency/effectiveness of the plans.

•Coordinate with the school nurse to be sure medications are appropriately stored, and be sure that an emergency kit is available that contains a physician’s standing order for epinephrine. In states were regulations permit, medications are kept in a easily accessible secure location central to designated school personnel, not in locked cupboards or drawers. Students should be allowed to carry their own epinephrine, if age appropriate after approval from the students physician/clinic, parent and school nurse, and allowed by state or local regulations.

•Designate school personnel who are properly trained to administer medications in accordance with the State Nursing and Good Samaritan Laws governing the administration of emergency medications.

•Be prepared to handle a reaction and ensure that there is a staff member available who is properly trained to administer medications during the school day regardless of time or location.

•Review policies/prevention plan with the core team members, parents/guardians, student (age appropriate), and physician after a reaction has occurred.

•Work with the district transportation administrator to assure that school bus driver training includes symptom awareness and what to do if a reaction occurs.

•Recommend that all buses have communication devices in case of an emergency.

•Enforce a “no eating” policy on school buses with exceptions made only to accommodate special needs under federal or similar laws, or school district policy. Discuss appropriate management of food allergy with family.

•Discuss field trips with the family of the food-allergic child to decide appropriate strategies for managing the food allergy.

•Follow federal/state/district laws and regulations regarding sharing medical information about the student.

•Take threats or harassment against an allergic child seriously

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*Information on our site and shared by members of our support forums is not intended to be medical advice or to replace the relationship between a patient and his/her physician*