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Can camps be more prepared for children with food allergies?

November 23, 2019

Camps are wonderful places that provide formative experiences for children and adolescents.  Summer camps strive to maintain a safe environment for their campers, which includes emergency preparedness. While the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Camp Association recommend that summer camps have emergency management strategies in place for food allergy-related anaphylaxis and other medical emergencies, there has been limited research on camp preparedness and caring for children with food allergies.

The study by Schellpfeffer, et al, in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice examines the current state of anaphylaxis education and training in United States summer camps and estimates the frequency of food allergy-related anaphylaxis events occurring in summer camps over a 2-year period. The study team partnered with, the largest web-based, camp specific electronic health record company in the United States, in order to survey camp leadership representing 528 camps nationally. Questions addressed demographic characteristics, food allergy policies, training, medication availability, food allergy-related anaphylaxis events, and confidence in staff to recognize and treat anaphylaxis. All data were retrospective and anaphylaxis events from insect venom were not assessed.

Results showed that most camps in the respondent cohort had children with food allergy attend, but only about half reported requiring emergency action plans for attendance. A quarter of the respondent leadership reported an episode of anaphylaxis treated with an epinephrine autoinjector at their camp in the past 2 years. More than half of respondents reported the presence of an educational session for camp staff on recognizing and treating anaphylaxis. However, about 15% of respondent leadership reported they were unsatisfied with their training materials and one-third were not confident in staff to manage anaphylaxis.  

The authors’ interpretation of this information is that while is it encouraging that the majority of camp leadership surveyed had education and training available for staff, there is an opportunity for improvement with availability of more widespread practical training on recognition and management of anaphylaxis for camp staff tailored for summer camp environments.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice is an official journal of the AAAAI, focusing on practical information for the practicing clinician.

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