Safe despite allergies

Allergies don't have to keep a child from having the summer of a lifetime.

Camp can be a safe place for a child with even the most severe allergies, as long as camp staff, parents and the camper take precautions.

Education is your best defence, says Laurie Harada, who leads the Toronto Anaphylaxis Education Group.

Anaphylaxis is an extreme sensitivity to substances, including food, stings and drugs. Awareness and efforts to create safe environments have improved dramatically, Harada says. Still, she advises parents to shop around and challenge a camp's procedures.

Anaphylaxis Canada offers a list of questions to ask:

  • Does the camp have an anaphylaxis management policy?
  • Does the camp keep a supply of epinephrine, a synthetic form of adrenaline that relaxes the airways and constricts blood vessels?
  • (Children with allergies should be encouraged always to carry their own EpiPens.)
  • Who is trained to give epinephrine?
  • How is food controlled?
  • What happens if a camper has an anaphylactic reaction?
  • What precautions are taken for off-site events?
  • What medical information are parents asked to provide?

  • Also, talk to parents of other anaphylactic campers. Word of mouth is the best reference, Harada says.

    "I think camp is a wonderful experience for a kid," she says. "There's going to be risks anywhere for these children. They have to learn to live with their allergies."

    For more information, contact Anaphylaxis Canada at 416-785-5666 or visit
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