By: Jamie Perillo, LPC
Starting camp or a new summer activity? Ask these four food allergy S.A.F.E. questions first.
As we trade in backpacks and sneakers for beach towels and flip-flops new summer activities may be on your child’s calendar. If you or your child are feeling nervous, walk through these four S.A.F.E. questions before starting your new activity.
- Setting: What is the setting? Essentially, these are the basic questions you would ask at the start of a new school year or new activity such as summer camp. A few examples might be, “Who is in charge of your child?” “Will food be present?” “Are all adults leading the activity or camp trained in using epinephrine auto- injectors?”” What are the handwashing protocols before and after eating?”
- All aboard. When asking is everyone on board, you are confirming for your child all the adults, camp counselors, teachers, or other important team players are on board with your child’s food allergy safety plan and properly trained in your child’s allergies. Additionally, you are verifying everyone is willing to make adjustments when necessary to accommodate your child’s needs and keep them safe and included.
- Feelings. After both you and your child have spoken and met with the adults in charge, how are you both feeling? Do you feel supported? Ask yourself, “Do I feel heard, understood, and supported and does my child feel physically and emotionally safe? Use this as a checkpoint for moving forward.
- Education. Before your child begins their program, is there any additional education that might be helpful for the adults/ children involved? Would the program benefit from a review in using epinephrine (perhaps they know the epi-pen but need a course in the Avi-Q) Additional education you might consider is a review on label reading, signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and general rules on cross-contamination and safety protocols. An equally important educational support can be having someone (nurse, camp leader, even Mom or Dad) read a story about children with food allergies to your child’s peers at the start of their activity.
These four questions will help you gather important information you need, help you make a decision on the program, address any concerns or anxiety you or your child might have before starting, and help you both feel safe!