Keeping kids with food allergies safe at summer camp

EUGENE, Ore. -- About six million kids in the United States have food allergies, the medical journal "Pediactrics" says.

That means babysitters, camp councilors and other childcare workers have to assume some responsibility for monitoring a child's allergies while their parents are away.

With 800 kids at YMCA camps in Eugene this summer, associate director Julie Grossman says keeping track of food allergies is a big task.

"We ask specifically for (parents) to fill out dietary modifications and allergies and then this is paperwork that is kept on the counselor," Grossman says.

After a 13-year-old died from her peanut allergy while at a summer camp in Sacramento, staff at the YMCA say they're on high alert.

Counselors like Jeanette Oleman are asked to keep a close eye on kids with allergies.

"If I see that a kid's having an issue, and I know that kid is one of our kids who's allergic... I'm gonna run and get that Epi-pen and get them right away," said Oleman.

To help combat the most common food allergy of nuts, the YMCA adopted a strict "nut-free" policy.

"If a child does come with, say, a peanut butter sandwich, the teachers bag it up, write a note, put it back in the lunchbox and send it home saying 'Sorry, please come up with an alternative. We have kids who are allergic'," Grossman said.

"If a kid does accidentally get their hands on something they're allergic to, each counselor has a backpack with the proper medication," she added.

Staff at the "Y" say the best thing a parent can do is let staff know of all their child's allergies before dropping them off at camp.