Eating at School with Allergies

cafeter

Hi! My name is Davis and I am 15 years old. I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish. Being in high school means that I still have to eat in a cafeteria. I was diagnosed with my allergies when I was four so I am now well practiced when it comes to managing them at school! In the early years, it didn’t seem too difficult. When you are eight years old you don’t really care about why you can’t bring this or that to school. If someone with authority tells you that you can’t bring something, then you just don’t bring it!

I think that things start getting more challenging once you get to the higher grades. As you get older, you start to question authority more. As you do this, you start to disobey more. This can lead to allergy-related problems for a couple of reasons. One, if kids know that you aren’t supposed to bring a food, they may be tempted to bring it once in a while just to break the rules. This can put you in serious harm if one day, they bring a food with one of your allergens to school and you have a reaction. Also, not many kids know what to do should a reaction occur.

Another problem you may run into is kids teasing you about your allergy. This didn’t happen to me at school, but instead when I went to a baseball game. I was with some of my teammates and one child didn’t quite understand how serious my allergy was. The boy had a bag of peanuts and decided it would be funny to put it an inch away from my face. I turned away and my mom quickly jumped in and explained the severity of my allergies to the boy’s parents. After that day, I always made sure to tell new people how serious my allergy was, especially if they had food close by that contained my allergens. Whether at school, a baseball game or anywhere, if you see something you are allergic to, you have to speak up and be proactive in keeping yourself safe. Also in case something does happen, the people around you will be better prepared.

I would suggest making sure that some of your friends, teachers, and administrative staff all know how to use an auto-injector. That’s where the beauty of free trainers comes in handy (check the website of your auto-injector for more information). They say practice makes perfect and practicing with a trainer is a great way to make sure you are always ready to help yourself.

I hope this has helped you in gain confidence when it comes to eating at school and has helped you feel more relaxed knowing that there is always someone there to help. Stay Safe!

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Camp will be an experience that I’ll never forget…

Girl at summer campHi everyone! I’m Hannah, I’m 14 years old, and I’m allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and legumes.

Last summer, I spent 3 weeks at an outdoor camp in Kenora. I had a great time and was constantly busy. Luckily, the camp was peanut- and tree nut-free, and no one was allowed to bring outside food to camp, so I could enjoy myself while feeling safe!

Even still, when I look back at that experience now, there are a few things that I wish I had done differently. The camp is located on an island in Lake of the Woods, so if I had an anaphylactic reaction, it would be a 15-minute boat ride for me to reach land. I realize now that I should have checked with my counselors, to see if they knew how to properly use my auto-injector. I was worried that they wouldn’t know how to administer it, because they were mainly in their teens and early twenties, and none of them had allergies. If they didn’t know how, I could have taught them! I also wish that I had told all the people in my cabin about my allergies, right off the bat, so they would know how serious they are.

The most exciting part of the camp was a 1 week overnight trip, when the girls from my cabin embarked on a canoe trip throughout the area of Lake of the Woods. We carried our food on our backs and paddled for hours per day. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done!

Teens sitting by lake

“…the girls in my cabin and I embarked on a one week canoe trip throughout the area of Lake of the Woods, carrying our food on our backs and paddling for hours per day…”

Before we left, we had to pack our food supplies. Cabins usually pack peanut butter, peas, and chickpeas, because they are easy to eat and filling. My cabin, of course, was not allowed to bring peanut butter, but they brought pea butter instead – which I am still allergic to, but not as severely.

Unfortunately, some of the girls in my cabin complained about not being able to bring peanut butter and made fun of my allergies. I became very upset and told them that I could die from eating just a small amount of peanut butter. I’m not sure if they really understood how dire my allergies could be.

Luckily, I was able to handle the situation and made sure that my meals did not contain chickpeas or peas. At lunch, I had crackers with jam, and no one used the same knife for pea butter as they did for any other condiments. It was still difficult to feel 100% comfortable, because I wondered what would happen if I had an anaphylactic reaction. At some times, we were canoeing in the middle of the lake, with no land in sight. How long would it take me to get to the main shore?

Fortunately, I didn’t have a reaction, and I’m proud that I was able to manage such a tricky situation. There were a few close calls – I stepped on a wasps’ nest and got stung twice. I wasn’t sure if I was allergic to wasp stings or not, since some people are. Turns out I’m not, which I learned the hard way!

If I could suggest anything to allergic youth heading off to camp this summer, it would be to make sure that your allergies can and will be accommodated. Camps that aren’t peanut- or tree nut-free can be risky for some allergic youth. However, don’t let your allergies hold you back! Most situations can be managed if you’re careful and outspoken enough to talk to your counselors and other campers about your allergies.

Camp will always be an experience that I’ll never forget – for all the right reasons!