For kids with celiac disease, even rites of passage such as summer camp experiences can be particularly challenging. With the spring warmup giving way to thoughts of sleep-away camps, you may be wondering how you can make this kind of experience safe for your child. Before you start looking to celiac-exclusive summer camps, here are a few ideas to help you make a mainstream camp a safe place for your child to spend their summer.
Talk With Your Pediatrician
The very first thing you should do is talk with your child's pediatrician. He or she will need to give you a note that details the diagnosis, as most camps will require this for their food service program to alter a menu. Ask the doctor about anything specific that you should be on alert for, particularly when it comes to hidden ingredients or any additional food allergies.
Talk With The Camp Organizers
Reach out to the administrators for the camp well in advance of the actual camp opening. This gives them plenty of time to ensure that your child is in a celiac-friendly cabin and has all of the accommodations necessary for any crafts or other events, too. The more proactive you can be about this, the easier it will be for the camp to meet your child's needs.
Meet With The Food Service Program Manager
For kids with celiac, public meals can be a minefield. You can take a lot of the uncertainty out of your child's mealtimes at camp by meeting with the manager of the food service program (e.g. New Horizon Foods). Explain the celiac diagnosis. Bring the doctor's note as well as copies of information related to which foods need to be avoided and what alternatives are best. Don't automatically assume that food services specialists are aware of celiac or how to manage it, because they aren't medical professionals. Be an advocate for your child, and provide the kitchen manager with the tools necessary to help make the experience a positive one.
Pack Safe Camp Snacks
Snacking is almost an inevitability for campers. If you want to be sure that your child has options that are celiac-friendly, the easiest thing to do is pack a care package for them to bring along. Consider things like gluten-free graham crackers for those nights of making s'mores by the fire, popcorn, chips, and trail mix for snacking variety. You can also include freeze-dried fruit slices and similar items for healthy options.