Calling Moms of Children with Food allergies....what Is Your School's Epi Policy

Updated on June 24, 2014
A.R. asks from Chicago, IL
18 answers

Hi Moms:

My son has a peanut allergy. Like many of you we carry and Benadryl, epi pen and albuterol inhaler everywhere. No problem, I just carry a bigger bag.:)

Here's my question: I signed my 5 year old son up for a very reputable camp this summer. Their allergy response policy is unlike any I have ever encountered. His allergy action plan calls for Benadryl, epi & inhaler in that order if needed. The camp will ONLY administer the epi pen. They will NOT administer Benadryl and he has to self administer the inhaler. I find this to be ridiculous because if it is a small exposure the Benadryl could stop the reaction and if he needs the epi pen he might need some help with the inhaler.

They don't want to budge on the policy. I have even had my doctor write a note. Plus, he has to carry his epi and inhaler with him even outside.

They are nut free but kids bring their own food but I have been told by administration that the peanut rule is frequently violated.

Has anyone encountered anything like this? Is this normal? What would you do?

****UPDATE****** this "camp" has an 8:1 student teacher ratio. It is for gifted students and you have to test to get admitted. It is also being run by a top 20 university. Maybe I wrongly expected a bit more. :)

Thankfully, he doesn't need a medical camp Louisville. You obviously don't have kids with allergies. He just might need someone to help squirt pre-measured Benadryl into his mouth.

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So What Happened?

Thanks to all the moms of children with allergies who responded. BD your response was spot on. I would like them to just give the Benadryl and most likely we won't need to use the epi. I don't want them to wait for the situation is so bad they need to use the epi.

For those of you who responded who don't have children with food allergies...,,you don't get it. Period.

We will be contacting the university to see how to alter the policy.

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answers from Washington DC on

sounds like they've had liability issues in the past. many camps do not employ trained medical professionals, and their camp counselors are only equipped to deal with routine bumps, bruises and bee stings.
peanut allergies are pretty endemic these days, but not every facility is set up to handle them. there are some things that high-risk kids just can't do.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

My DD has an apple allergy. I had to provide Benadryl and a doctor's note that the Benadryl was enough. If that had not been on file, then they would have been required to administer an epi pen if she had a reaction. I provided her with chewable Benadryl tablets, that she didn't end up using.

If they won't alter the policy (funny that they'll admit that their no nuts policy isn't really enforced, putting you in that position....seems to me they shouldn't say they have a no nuts policy if they can't enforce it), then I'd remove him from the camp. No enrichment is worth worrying. Doesn't an epi pen also require a trip to the ER after? While I get that they are worried about him having a serious reaction, if the doctor says Benadryl first and they won't do that, then they may subject him (and you) to unnecessary medical treatment by not following the doctor's plan. And it wouldn't be worth it to me to keep him there.

As my teacher used to tell us, book smart doesn't mean you have common sense.

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answers from Philadelphia on

My kids have severe allergies (peanuts for my son and tree nuts for my daughter). My daughter's been in the ER a couple of times for anaphylactic reactions. So I DO understand your position.

Our SCHOOL policy is to administer Benadryl, then Epi-pen and 911 if they need it. So going straight to Epi-pen is not really a desired immediate response to a mild allergic reaction. Both kids have a 504 plan in place that spells everything out.

Private camps don't need to follow 504 plans like a public school. If I encountered a camp with the policy that yours does, I would find another camp. That's not the battle I would try to fight. That's their policy and I would either abide by their policy or go to another camp with a policy I CAN accept. I would NOT spend my summer trying to get that camp to change their policy - what a waste of my precious time.

I'm certain there are camps that have an allergy policy you could accept. They may not be run by a top 20 university or be for gifted kids (or maybe they would be), but they WOULD be a safer environment for your son.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

What exactly do you expect from the camp? A 24/7 shadow over your kid? The 8:1 ratio at a great camp is wonderful but the counselors and teachers are there for ALL students.

The camp is covering themselves legally so they are not sued in the future because they can't hire extra people to cover every child 24/7, Gifted camp or not.

I've been in the classroom over 13 yrs and see a lot of allergies. We are serious about the allergies and we do our best to make sure each allergy is noted and watch anything that comes into the room. We also have peanut free tables at lunch.

One thing I do see is parents making sure their children, even as a K, know what to do in the event of an allergic attack. At 5, these children are capable of knowing when and how to squirt a pre-measured dose of Benadryl in their mouth.

The children with allergies need to be educated and schooled on exactly what to do and when and not rely on others to administer meds when needed. What if the nurse is not in the office at the time of need?

If you don't like the policies of the camp, then find another one that better suits your needs. I am sure there are plenty of GT camps out there, and keep in mind that most children even out academically and socially by 2nd - 3rd grade.

My first thought after reading your post was a medical camp and then I saw where you blasted someone for mentioning that option. I suppose I'll be blasted next. Maybe you and he would feel more secure if he were at a medical camp where the children are monitored more closely. There is nothing wrong with medical camps... In the long run, he might learn how to manage his issues so he does not have to rely on someone to do it for him.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Sorry, and you might stop reading after this first sentence based on your belief that those without allergic kids don't "get it," but my kid doesn't have food allergies; however, I am on staff at a camp for a week each summer.

Any camp or course or class has its rules, they are in writing for all those who apply to see them, and there for you to consider as you enroll your child -- or as you decide not to enroll. If you want to talk to the camp director about the reason for the policy, do -- they are open to questions and you have a right to ask. Ask if their policy is due to insurance, or staff training, or some past experience, and if they will make an exception. But be aware that they can say no; they are a private entity and make their own rules. Public schools are required to make some accommodations--but a privately run camp isn't necessarily required to make the kind you're wanting.

Making a change that accommodates just your child could do the following: Create liabilities. Void their insurance policy. Require additional staff training that they do not have time or staff to do this late in the game.

And if and when other parents find out the camp's protocols for one child are different from the rules sent to all parents, the camp will end up spending a lot of time defending that one exception, and explaining why another parent's child didn't get the same treatment.

Of course it would make sense for them to do the Benadryl first. Talk to the right person, high up enough, and you may be told, "Sure, we can do that, we've done it before, glad you asked!" when you inquire about it, and you'll be happy and they'll be fine with it. But for your future reference, you need to know that you'll run into this again.

You seem to be baffled that a camp run by a "top 20 university" for gifted kids would not accommodate your specific needs. But it's still governed by liabilities, insurance, staff and training requirements and rules -- which apply equally whether a camp is for gifted kids or not.

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answers from San Francisco on

My daughter has a bee sting allergy and needs an epi so I get it. But I also get that most camps and programs are private/for profit and they don't want to deal with the very expensive insurance hassles of taking kids with allergies so what can you do? Public schools and programs MUST cater to us by law but anything else is up to you as a mom to seek out.
If you don't like the policies of the program go somewhere else.
America is a free market system and this is our reality.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

He may not be ready for camp. You may want to begin allowing him to help in the kitchen so he can measure things. You can also begin to let him know that too much of an ingredient ruins the whole batch, thus too much or too little medicine will either help or hurt him. I don't know what else you could do.

When I went to school there were no allergy policies as far as food. That was a long time ago. However, my older daughter went to school in the 80/90's and I don't recall any type of food restriction due to an allergy at that time either.

As for my daughters elementary school, I recall a mother asked about the policy and they said they had a peanut free table. That the child is welcome to sit there, however, the child should be aware of their allergies. In other words, the school is not going to keep track of who has allergies and needs to sit a the table.

I wrote this without mentioning I have allergies, my husband has allergies, and so does my oldest daughter. I get it. It just wasn't the highlight of my response. Our allergies make no difference to what I had to say. You seemed to be looking for a specific reaction.

I am allergic to a lot of grass, trees, foods, and acetaminophen. The acetaminophen makes me stop breathing with no warning. It is a scary thing. My point is, you cannot possibly accommodate every allergy. Peanuts just seem to be the big thing. My older daughter is allergic to corn. Corn can be found in almost every food.

So no, people don't adhere to policies, but the policies cannot cover everything. If your child has allergies, he/she has to understand how to react when something has gone wrong. I always ask kids if they have allergies. I expect they know what they're allergic to.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

It seems like the suggestion of a specialized camp made you angry. I just wanted to let you know that my husband attended a camp with other kids that had Type I diabetes when he was a kid, and he remembers it as one of the best experiences of his life. All of the other kids were Type I, as well as most of the counselors. Everyone there GOT it, and no one treated him with kid gloves or like he was different. He was just one more kid testing blood sugars and giving himself insulin injections. While I think your kid should absolutely be able to participate in all kinds of camps and experiences regardless of his medical condition, you may want to give some thought to a specialized camp in addition to those things. It can be a really, really positive thing.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I would look for another camp.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Is this a day camp or residential camp?

My daughter has food allergies and has went to day camps and summer recreation. She also attends public school and sits at a regular lunch table. We have never had an allergic reaction, and I do not expect her to. She eats what I pack her and only the foods that she knows are safe for her.

If she does encounter a problem such as hives then it is just Benadryl. If the reaction is more serious but not anaphylactic (my ears are itchy, my throat feels funny...) then the protocol is Benadryl and call 911. She does carry an Epi-Pen but they are not something to be used lightly. If the need arises I would prefer EMS be present incase of cardiac arrest.

If your son is experiencing a true allergic reaction than I think an adult needs to be aware of the situation and EMS needs to be called. When the Benadryl wears off he could become anaphylactic so I wouldn't stop there. I find it hard to believe that a camp would neglect your son's needs so I am curious what you are asking of them that is above and beyond reasonable care.

ETA as for not being capable of self administering Benadryl - if it is a true allergic reaction, I don't care if my daughter drinks half the bottle until EMS arrives. Measuring spoons and doses become irrelevant at that point.

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answers from New York on

Unfortunately any camp, school, daycare, can make their own policies. So as long as they have stated in writting their policy it is up to you if you would like to enroll, or find another place for him. I own a daycare center and every employee I have has First aid & CPR training. It is possible that this camp does not require the training and are not willing to take the risk on administering an Epi pen. Fortunately, I have never had to do so and we are peanut free. However, whenever we do summer field trips and children are required to bring lunch some do bring peanut butter. I am very cautious and have any children with allergies sit at a seperate table to avoid exposure, and have been very lucky. I don't think you will get them to budge since it is a written policy so I think your choice is to either find a new camp, or kindly as if the staff could be sure to ask the children before any snack, or lunch is put out if anyone has anything eating peanuts and make sure to seat your son in a safe place. I don't think that is too much to ask. If they won't consider that then I don't think I would want my child in a place so unwilling to help out my child. Good luck!!

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answers from Chicago on

I would not my son (who has allergies) participate. Too risky.

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answers from Austin on

Wow..... I can't imagine what it is to have to deal with people that don't want to accommodate you for his medical needs.....

You will be sure to need to find out what his school's allergy action plan is for the fall.

Just as an example, I work in a middle school. ALL staff have to take the epi-pen action online workshop so they can assist in the case of an emergency. We have several students that have epi-pens for various reasons.... most are in the clinic, but I'm sure some also carry in case of an immediate reaction.

My son had an epi-pen for fire ants..... it had never gone to a systemic reaction, but when he was young, he would over-react to fire ant bites with a golf-ball size swelling. Fortunately, we never had to use it.... but we had it with us for camping and hiking just in case. He hasn't had a severe reaction for many years, though, and no longer has an epi-pen.

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answers from Kansas City on

Our schools always did Benadryl first, then an epi if need be. We never went that far. They always have a peanut free table. Because people always bring a PB&J. My son also has urticaria, because of the cold, and they always helped him with that too. I think our schools always went above and beyond, and they called me quite a bit, "just to check" whenever they weren't sure. But I really don't think camps are equipped to do that, and especially since lots of camps are run by teenagers themselves, at least in my experience. I'd say keep advocating for your son, and maybe someone will put allergy rules in place, or stick around at the camp so you can keep an eye out in case he needs you. But that is not the point of going to a camp, I know.

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answers from Chicago on

I would not feel comfortable letting my son attend that camp . He has a severe peanut allergy also . Even if you try to get them to change the rules , I don't think they will "get it " . I would be nervous leaving him alone with a group of people that have not been trained properly especially when they are eating . Good luck to you :)

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answers from San Francisco on

A camp is not the same as a public school. You are paying for it and therefore you can decide to take your business elsewhere if you don't like their policies. They are not required by law to protect you child in any way, only a public school or program is required to offer that kind of accommodation.
I have found certain programs to be much more allergy friendly, like the Girl Scouts, and the YMCA. Other camps/classes, not so much. No one wants to be liable for administering medication to minors, can you blame them? What if they gave your kid too much and he had a bad or God forbid fatal reaction? You'd be all over them!!!

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answers from San Francisco on

If I had to guess, this is due to insurance company rules and they may not be willing to change it. I know many schools in our area cannot administer any kind of medication - tylenol, ibuprofen, benadryl, etc. If a child has prescribed medications, they must bring it in the original container, with a doctor's note and instructions, and it is kept in the nurse's office, who can then oversee the administration of the medicine. The Epi-Pen is fortunately allowed to be with the child and an inhaler, due to allergies, and the staff has to be trained how to use those. It's a tough situation - I get that.

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answers from Los Angeles on

At both my son's school and at his summer camps, we have been able to provide the same three medications that your son needs. I have a separate medical form for each medicine, signed by the doctor, and indicating what symptoms would require each one. We have been fortunate never to need any medicine at school or camp, but if we did, they would definitely administer Benadryl first if the reaction wasn't strong enough to require the epipen.

You should definitely talk to the camp some more. It is ridiculous to force an epipen when Benadryl is sufficient.

Do you use a spacer with the inhaler? It might make it easier for him to do himself. It is a clear, plastic tube about 6 inches long and a couple of inches wide. The inhaler goes in one end and the other end goes in his mouth. My son can do it himself and it is much more effective than with the inhaler alone.

Finally, we use the chewable benadryl tablets when we are on-the-go. They are easier than the liquid for us.

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