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Summer Camp Allergy Policy is All Wrong

Many food allergy families feel this refusal to administer life-saving medication is tantamount to barring kids with food allergies from enrolling in a camp. I think they’re right. The first time I heard about a camp doing this, I didn’t believe it. Surely there was some misunderstanding. A camp can’t legally do this, can they?

In my view, the answer is a resounding “no.” Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects all individuals from being discriminated against because of their disability in “places of public accommodations,” which camps are. And while in everyday language we may not think of kids with food allergies as “disabled”, they are when it comes to this law.

A well-known settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and La Petite Academy*, a nationwide child-care provider, sheds light on this situation. In that case, La Petite had been refusing to administer epinephrine auto-injectors to the young kids in its care with food allergies. The settlement agreement under the ADA required La Petite to implement a policy that staff would administer an epinephrine auto-injector if treating a child with a severe allergic reaction.

If camp administrators told me they would only help Nina “self-administer” her epinephrine in an emergency, I would not stand for it. I would hope that educating the director and senior staff on best practices for food allergy management would lead to a change. If it didn’t, I would send a written complaint to the Department of Justice’s Disability Rights Section (instructions for filing a complaint can be found on the ADA website). Bottom line: I would not feel my daughter was safe attending a camp with such a policy.

In schools, day cares, and summer camps, our kids need to know that in an emergency the adults caring for them will not hesitate to give them the medicine they may need in order to survive. FAAN is here to help with the education all teachers, counselors and caregivers need in order to confidently care for kids with food allergies. If you know of an organization that could benefit from our expertise, ask them to check out our free online course at www.allergyready.com or to visit our main website. It may just help save a life.

This column was first published in Allergic Living magazine. Maria Acebal is the CEO of FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) an organization dedicated to serving families with food allergies. She received her JD from Yale Law School and practiced law before joining the non-profit sector. For resources on schools and food allergies or to purchase a FAAN membership, visit www.foodallergy.org.

*See the agreement at www.ada.gov/lapetite.htm

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