Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Let’s Go Camping!


by Marilyn Walton, MHHS, RRT, AE-C, RPSGT

School’s out and everyone is looking forward to a fun summer. Vacations, special outings, and camping trips are in the forecast.

Camping usually involves outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, and biking. It means sleeping in cabins, tents, or even under the stars. It may include campfires and special snacks. Camp memories can be enjoyed for years, but they can also be spoiled when someone with asthma or allergies is exposed to triggers and allergens. Good planning and preparation will help to make sure fun is in your forecast.

Do your homework

It’s important to search for a camp that fits your, or your child’s, needs. Different camps bring different challenges and opportunities. For example, an asthma camp will most likely be staffed with plenty of nurses, respiratory therapists, and doctors who can handle asthma and allergies on site. Counselors regularly monitor campers and help give medications to prevent emergencies.

Other camps, such as band, sports, or scouting camps, may have a medical clinic and emergency medical staff, but the majority of counselors may not be experienced with asthma or allergy issues. Independent family-style campgrounds may have little or no medical support.

Overnight camp requires bringing daily controller medications (also called long-term controller or maintenance meds), while day camp may only require bringing quick-relief (also called fast-acting or rescue) medications. An epinephrine self-injector (such as the EpiPen, Auvi-Q, or Adrenaclick) should always go along with anyone at risk for a severe allergic reaction.

Find out the details about the camp and its resources before taking the plunge. Some questions are especially important if your child is attending camp without you:

  • Have the counselors been trained to deal with asthma or severe allergic reactions, including how to give an inhaler or epinephrine self-injector?
  • Do they understand the implications of these health issues, both physical and emotional?
  • Is there a trained medical person on staff available at all times?
  • Are campers allowed to carry their own inhalers or epinephrine self-injectors?
  • Do counselors carry cell phones or other forms of telecommunication with good service throughout the campgrounds?
  • What is the camp’s emergency policy?
  • Where is the nearest hospital?

Preparation is key

There are also other important things to do when planning a camping trip. Visit your health care provider for a check-up beforehand, and obtain enough medicine to last the entire trip. If going for more than one day, you’ll need to pack your quick-relief medicine, controller medicines, epinephrine auto-injector, and anything else prescribed by your doctor. Don’t forget your spacer (holding chamber) for inhaler medicines. Extra medicine may be a good idea too, such as a back-up rescue inhaler.

Keep medicines readily available at all times in a specially marked case. If traveling by car, train, or plane, put medicines in your carry-on bag rather than in your checked suitcase. It won’t help if you need medicine quickly and it is in the trunk or baggage compartment. Include a current Asthma Action Plan and Emergency Allergy Plan in your medicine bag, too.

Whatever camp you choose, the underlying message is the same — be prepared!

Marilyn Walton is a Registered Respiratory Therapist Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C), and a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care who currently serves as the program education coordinator for asthma at the Community Outreach, Education and Support Center run by Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, OH.

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