A gluten-free camp allows children with celiac disease (CD) to enjoy a camp experience without concern and preoccupation with foods they eat or the stigma of their underlying disease. The objective of this study was to evaluate the impact of gluten-free camp on quality-of-life indicators for children and adolescents with CD.
Children aged 7 to 17 years with CD were administered a 14-question survey at the beginning and the end of a 7-day gluten-free camp. Surveys used a Likert scale to examine general well-being, emotional outlook, and self-perception for the week before each survey. Differences between the time points were compared. Data were analyzed by paired t test.
Of the 104 campers who attended camp, 77 (21 male) completed the survey at both time points. Most (70%) had been on a gluten-free diet (GFD) for <4 years. All seemed to benefit from camp, no longer feeling different from other kids or feeling frustrated with a restricted diet. A more beneficial impact was found for campers who were on a GFD for <4 years. Overall, campers reported an improvement in 11 of 14 questions, statistically significant (P < .05) for 8 of those 11 questions. Improvement was observed in each of the 3 categories of questions: well-being, self-perception, and emotional outlook.
Children who had CD and attended a week-long gluten-free camp demonstrated improvement in well-being, self-perception, and emotional outlook. The positive effects of camp were more apparent among campers who had been on a GFD for <4 years compared with those who had been on a GFD for ≥4 years, suggesting an adaptation to CD with time. A gluten-free camp that provides an environment of unrestricted foods can at least temporarily alleviate stress and anxiety around food and social interactions. Durability of these observations on return to daily life requires additional study.