Allergy and summer camps
Angel Mazon. MD PhD. Pediatric Allergist.
EAACI Website Co-editor
Many children spend part of their holidays in summer camps, in which they can enjoy many outdoor activities. Allergic and asthmatic children are encouraged to participate just like children without these disorders, but they and the adults in charge of the activities must know how to deal with potential reactions.
Physical exercise can be a trigger of asthma symptoms. Asthmatic children on preventive anti-inflammatory treatment must not forget to take their daily doses. Forgetting your treatment is easier when you are not following your usual routine, when there are changes in the time for meals of for going to sleep. Furthermore some children may feel embarrassed they have to take medication when other children are around, especially teenagers
Some children with asthma have to take bronchodilators, a substance that dilates the bronchi and bronchioles, decreasing resistance in the respiratory airway and increasing airflow to the lungs, before exercising, and have the medication available in case they need extra doses if there is insufficient response or if the activity is very long or strenuous. Exercising at high altitudes may also pose a further risk for presenting asthma symptoms.
Symptoms of rhinitis and conjunctivitis are not life threatening, but they can be very intense and limitating, and ruin an enjoyable time, both for the allergic children and for those taking care of them. Again, taking the regular preventive treatment and having rescue medication, such as antihistamines, available is key for an uneventful experience. The specialist may give advice on whether taking extra preventive medication during periods of risk, when you are exposed to higher concentrations of pollen.
Children with allergy to foods, drugs or insect stings must be especially careful when they are out of the safer environment of their homes. Information to the organisers of camps is essential to avoid potentially dangerous reactions. A personal medical plan explaining how to avoid, recognise and treat allergic reactions can be provided by a physician. Those preparing and serving foods must have full information of the ingredients used and follow precautions not only when being in the base camp but also in outings. The place where emergency medication, especially adrenaline, is kept and the way to use it must be known by the responsible persons.
So, children with allergy and asthma can enjoy summer camps just like the rest of the children but, for safety, remember:
- check if there is enough preventive and rescue medication for the whole period
- check that medication is not expired
- obtain a personal medical plan from the doctor
- inform the organisers of the camp in advance
- take the regular medication as part of the new routine and environment
- get sure that the ones in charge know where the medication is and how it is used
- enjoy your stay with safety!