Going to Summer Camp with Allergies

Camp is a very fun way to enjoy summer, but for those of us with food allergies it may at first seem a little intimidating. If you manage it correctly however, it can definitely be a lot easier. Today more and more camps are becoming peanut and nut free. This is a great step to solve nut allergy issues, but there is still concern for all the other allergies. 800px-Canoagemcanada

Most kids start off attending day camp. With allergies this can be a bit tricky, but with simple communication, things should work out okay. Some camps ask all the kids to bring their lunch. If that is the case, then treat it like you would school. Sometimes however, the camp provides lunch. To prepare for this before camp starts, talk to the kitchen staff and ask for a menu or meal plan. Talk about what is in each dish, and if you or your child can have it or what else they can make for you or your child. If you cannot come up with anything to eat then maybe consider bringing your own lunch. In terms of the snacks that the camp may provide, talk to the camp just like you did for lunch to try and find a solution.

Sleep away camp can be scary for any child, but especially children with food allergies. Unlike day camp, you cannot pack every single meal, so you will have to do some real planning before camp. Talk to the camp, and maybe have the head of the kitchen come over. Talk about what type of food is usually safe for you, and what type of food is not. Also talk about what simple dishes you like to eat. Although you can’t bring up all of your meals, you can bring up some homemade food. Often, sleep away camps will have a rough menu of what meals they will serve. Talk about what type of food you could have as alternatives for the dishes you can’t eat. When you go up to camp, make sure there is somebody you can talk to as well as make sure you know where to get your food. Most camps will have a salad bar, so you can always go and take some salad, if this is a safe option. Camps will also usually serve plain pasta, which you can eat if that is also safe for you. Once at camp you will better understand what

there is for you to safely eat. . 792px-Camp_fire

Both day and sleep away camp are so much fun, and there is no reason that you should miss out just because of your allergies. Remember the most important part of camp is to have fun and remember your auto-injector! Have a great summer everyone!

Reaction-free in cottage country!

Summer vacation is all about relaxing and having fun with friends and family! During the summer, I visit my friends’ cottages and always have a great time. Spending all day on the lake, fishing, tubing, and having campfires, is what summer is all about. Of course, having allergies does involve some planning, but it’s totally worth it!

Two friends standing on the pier at the lake.

Here are some tips to have a reaction-free visit to a friend’s cottage:

  1. Always bring at least two epinephrine auto-injectors! When you’re away from home, it is always best to be prepared.
  2. Make sure you let your friend and their parents know about your allergies.  Before going away to a friend’s cottage, my parents and I always discuss my allergies with my friend and their parents. Informing them of my allergies and letting them know about my auto-injector really helps them feel more confident about me staying with them.
  3. Learn where the nearest hospital is, just to be safe.
  4. Leave your parents with the cottage phone number and directions to the cottage so they can find their way in an emergency.
  5. Talk with your friend about what you will be eating and if they have any questions on how to prepare safe meals for you.
  6. Bring some allergy-safe snacks, just in case.
  7. Don’t leave your auto-injector in the direct sunlight and heat.
  8. Bring your auto-injector with you everywhere. It may feel silly to bring it with you tubing or kayaking, but anaphylaxis can occur at anytime.
  9. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy yourself!

By following these tips, you can have a reaction-free trip to a friend’s cottage. Some of my best summer memories are with my friends. My friends are so understanding about my allergies and have no problem accommodating me. Be safe and have fun! 🙂

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Hiking the Rocky Mountains with a Nut Allergy!

My high school offers this amazing trip to hike the Rocky Mountains in the last week of June, and I was determined to attend because I knew it was going to be a bucket-list experience. The only problem was: how am I supposed to manage my allergies when I’m 4.5 hours up a mountain, with only my EpiPen as protection?

The author backpacking in the Rocky Mountains

Luckily, there have been trailblazers before me with allergies who have successfully managed them on this trip. Before we left, the teachers in charge made sure they knew which foods I was allergic to and were trained how to use an EpiPen. One teacher recommended we get a SPOT, which is a special GPS-like device that has one purpose: if you get in serious, life-threatening trouble, press the SOS button and someone will come get you, whether it be the military, the local helicopter company, whomever! It works by using a satellite tracking device, so although you may not know where you are, your coordinates are sent to the nearest rescue office.

That eased my worry only slightly. I had no idea how well the SPOT would work if I needed it, and I had no desire to experience an anaphylactic reaction 11 km up some mountain. I knew that if I wanted to ensure my safety and enjoyment on this trip, I had to be extra careful.

Finally, we left my high school in Winnipeg and drove nearly 24 hours to Valemount, B.C. The views were already beautiful and we hadn’t even started climbing yet! We would be staying at a hostel-like residence, where our group of 24 students and 5 teachers would be preparing all of our own meals.

The teachers had been very careful in planning meals. Breakfast and dinner were always nut-free, and if there was to be a special condiment, such as peanut-butter or peanut sauce, it had to be kept in a specific area, and those eating it could only eat in a specific area as well. Because we were divided into cooking groups, I could not always see how the other students were preparing the food, but the teachers were always careful to ensure that students washed their hands before cooking or eating, and there were designated servers to ensure no cross-contamination occurred.

The hardest part of the entire trip was lunch. We would make our lunches in the morning before we hit the trail. There were nut-free granola bars and chocolate bars as snacks on the trail, but there was also peanut trail mix, and peanut butter sandwiches for lunch.  Instead of this, I made sure that I did not eat anything that had been near the nut products, and stuck to fruits and vegetables. I had also brought some food from home that I could bring on the trail. I felt more comfortable doing this, because things got pretty messy during lunch, what with all the peanut butter and jelly, and I didn’t want to take a risk of cross-contamination.

The hikes were absolutely beautiful! On the first day, we hiked along the Berg Lake Trail for 8 hours: 11 km up, 11 km down. It was tough, but well worth it. Later on in the week, we hiked a really difficult summit trail: 4.5 hours up (8 km), with an elevation gain of 1000m! Although everyone was enjoying eating their trail mix and PB sandwiches, I made sure to wash my hands before eating and tried to stay far enough away from anyone eating my allergens. I also had to ensure that I always had enough water, because I couldn’t share water bottles with anyone due to the risk of any traces of peanut protein remaining on the mouthpiece of their bottle.

A beautiful lake in the Rocky Mountains

When we did our summit hike and finally reached the top, it was a sight I will never forget. There, above the tree line, we could see the entire valley below us, and we even had a snowball fight (yes, there was snow in June)! When I completed that difficult hike, I knew that the annoyances of being cautious had been worth it, because this was definitely the trip of a lifetime!

A view of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, Canada
If you are planning to go on a similar trip, make sure you have a plan laid out beforehand as to how you will manage your allergies on the trail. Make sure you bring your own snacks, have a satellite device of some kind, and at least two epinephrine auto-injectors. Ensure that the teachers or leaders are aware of your allergies, and it’s also a good idea to let your friends know of the risks as well. Bring hand soap or wipes to wash your hands before you eat, and ONLY eat guaranteed safe foods. Don’t try something on the trail that you’ve never had before, unless it is labeled nut-free (like some granola bars). Also, consult with your allergist if you have any questions or concerns.

I am so glad I went on this Rocky Mountain trip. By doing so, I feel like I’ve not only climbed many, many kilometers up many mountains, but I’ve also scaled an allergy mountain, by putting myself in a new, real-life situation, and successfully managing it. I’ve learned so much from this experience, and I can’t wait to go again next year!

Summer Memories – Going to Camp with Allergies

Hi! My name is Andrew, and I have a severe peanut allergy.

This summer, I enjoyed a week away at camp in Ontario. It was my first sleepover camp. My time there was great, because not only were the activities fantastic, but the food was safe for me, and I could eat almost everything.

Two boys climbing on an indoor rock climbing wallMy favourite activities were rock climbing and knee-boarding. I liked the climbing, because it was both indoors and outside. With knee-boarding, it was a lot of fun doing tricks and getting wet. We zoomed around the kayakers trying to make them tip… but it didn’t work.

Another great thing was the food. It was really good and homemade in the camp kitchen. Almost everything was made without peanuts, even the snacks and desserts. The first night we had roast turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, and beans – that’s when I knew I was in for a good week.

I first heard about the camp a year earlier from my friend, Cam. We visited in September to see what it was like – 300 acres with cabins, kayaks, canoes, tether ball courts, dining hall, kitchen and more. During our first visit, we toured the activity areas and visited the kitchen, where we asked a lot of questions about the type of food they serve and how they prepare it. They were very confident that they could accommodate my allergy as they had done for others.

The following May, my friends and I visited again when they had an open house. I met the cook and got to see how they prepared the food. That day, they had a barbecue and snacks, and the cook assured me that it was all made without peanuts. It was delicious!

This July, while I was at camp, I checked with my cabin leader and the cook at every meal. There was only one thing that I couldn’t eat during the whole week – it was a salad with sesame seeds in it, and the sesame seeds had a “may contain traces of peanut” warning. There were tongs for each salad, and they watched to make sure that the tongs didn’t get mixed up. They also made cookies with soya butter – although I didn’t eat those, because they tasted too much like peanut butter for my liking. One of my friends who came with me to camp is a vegetarian. His meals were all made without peanuts too.

My time at camp was great, and I’m looking forward to going again next year!

 

 

 

Summer Camp with Allergies

My name is Laura, I’m 24 years old, and I am allergic to fish and shellfish!

I have worked for 5 years at many different summer camps for kids aged 5 to 12 years old, and I have some stories and tips for campers and staff with food allergies who want to participate in summer camp!

Four camp counselors sitting on a jungle gym

Laura (far right) with her fellow camp counselors.

For 5 years, I worked for a local summer camp program. I started off as a general counsellor, and worked my way up to supervisor throughout the years! I was able to learn how allergies are managed, both on site and in the main office, when kids register for camp!

I was also fortunate enough to work at a camp with The Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association, called “Camp Breathe Away,” which was a camp specifically for children with asthma and allergies! This weekend-long overnight camp was special. A doctor came with us, in case there were any emergencies. The camp was extra vigilant in ensuring that there were NO allergens on site for any of the campers and that all campers had their puffers and epinephrine auto-injectors on hand, with a back up kept with the counselors! The camp had 15 kids and 5 counselors, and all of the allergies on site included peanut, fish, shellfish, egg, milk, and bees! The weekend was a lot of fun, it and ran without any problems! For many campers, this was their first opportunity for an overnight camp experience. We were very fortunate to have a doctor on site with us – and it helped to ease the minds of parents!

Not all summer camps are that vigilant or specialized when it comes to allergy and asthma management, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t go to camp if you have allergies or asthma! It is manageable, but will take some behind-the-scenes work by you, your parents, and the camp program managers and counselors before attending!

For Campers with Allergies:

When your mom or dad registers you for any camp, they should alert the program of your allergy! At our camp, this flagged staff to keep an eye out for kids with allergies. Camp is manageable with allergies; just make sure that everybody knows about it!

Things to remember:

  • Tell your on-site counselors and the manager of the program about your allergy, to make sure that they are aware on site.
  • Make sure that the counselors who are with you all day are trained on how to use an EpiPen® or Twinject®, whichever you carry!
  • Make sure that you keep your epinephrine on you at all times, and don’t forget to bring it on field trips or other excursions! Be sure to check when your devices expire!!
  •  If you’re not sure that the food provided by the camp is safe, pack your own lunch, and don’t accept food from other campers! Our camp had a “no sharing” policy, and all the staff and children were alerted of allergies on site – but you can never be too safe, so only eat what you bring and know is safe!
  • Ask the counselors to post signs or send out newsletters to let other campers and their parents know that a camper has allergies. If the camp restrict certain allergens, it should also share that information.
  •  Tell a counselor immediately if you feel like you are having an allergic reaction!

For Counselors with Allergies:

I was a counselor with an allergy, and my fear was often helping kids with their meals when I did not know what they brought or how it was prepared! But that is not an issue if you keep yourself safe by proper hand washing. You should also alert your coworkers, the campers, and their parents that there is an allergy on site, so they can avoid bringing unsafe foods.

Things to remember:

  •  The same guidelines as the “For Campers” can be followed for counselors!
  • Make sure that your coworkers know how to use an EpiPen® or Twinject®. This helps not only you, but also campers with allergies!

For All Staff:

  • Be sure to alert yourself of the kids on site with allergies, and know where they keep their epinephrine.
  • Learn the proper use and administration of an EpiPen® and Twinject®, and who to call for emergency services
  • If possible, don’t bring allergens to camp, and be aware of cross-contamination issues.
  • Don’t bring or offer any foods to the campers, unless you have okayed it with your supervisors and the parents of children with and without allergies! This can vary, based on the summer camp and its policies.

For more information on how to manage allergies at summer camp, contact your local summer camp programs, and find out how they handle allergies! You might find that some programs are better or worse than others! Pick the one that best suits you! Where I worked, kids went home for lunch, and parents found this to be a helpful way to manage allergies at mealtime, since snacks were the only foods eaten at camp! Do your research before attending camp, and you will be well on your way to a super fun and safe summer camp experience!

Enjoy the sunshine, and enjoy summer camp, even with allergies!! J

~  Laura

For more reading, check out Hannah’s post, “Camp will be an experience that I will never forget”

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!