An unexpected Hospital visit

The last thing I expected to find myself doing on a Saturday night was sitting in the emergency room of the Children’s Hospital in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The thing is, I’m not even from St. John’s. I’m here for a month long summer program at Memorial University, where my day is planned to the minute and this was definitely not scheduled! So what happened?

It was Indian food night (my favourite!) I LOVE spicy food but I’m always very careful when ordering it to avoid menu items with nuts, since I’m allergic. I also make a point of letting the staff know about the severity of my allergies. This time however, it wasn’t me doing the ordering. The food had been catered, and I checked with the program staff to ensure nothing contained nuts, which they assured me was indeed the case.

There were no labels on any of the foods so I had no idea what I actually ate, apart from lots of Naan bread. Something didn’t agree with me and I felt it immediately. My throat felt thick and weird, but I just attributed that to the effect of the spices in the food. I tried to calm myself down because I was assured there weren’t any nuts in the food and I trusted the word of the program staff.

When I got back to my room a little while later, I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I felt worse: nauseous and bloated. After telling one of the program assistants how I was feeling, I took an anti-histamine and decided to lie down. After about an hour, I began to feel itchy and realized I was developing hives. At this point, I still had not given myself my auto-injector because the reaction wasn’t one I was prepared for. I have always been told to be aware of an itchy tongue and swelling of the lips, but I didn’t have either of these symptoms, which threw me off. Eventually, one of my friends came to check on me and told the program assistants that I did not look good. They quickly took me to the hospital across the street where it turns out I was, in fact, having an allergic reaction. To what? Who knows! The doctors in the emergency room gave me an IV of anti-histamine, a steroid, and a medication to calm the nausea. I felt better almost immediately and watched as my hives slowly disappeared. The doctor said that in retrospect, I should have given myself my auto-injector because by the time I would have felt like I was actually having an allergic reaction, it may have been too late for me to do it myself.

I learned a lot from this experience, even though I thought I knew everything there was for a teen to know about her allergies. The truth is, every reaction is different, and some take hours to progress – like mine that night. On top of that, they don’t always have the same symptoms. I’ve always had an itchy tongue when having an allergic reaction, but not that night. What I know now is that it is absolutely vital to ALWAYS carry your auto-injector with you, and to ALWAYS wear your MedicAlert bracelet. More importantly, ALWAYS go to the hospital if you don’t feel right, especially after eating a suspicious food. And don’t worry – I felt no pain from my treatment at the hospital, only relief, so there is no need to be scared of what will happen to you there. The medical professionals will save your life, which is a feeling that is incomparable!

As for Indian food, I’ll probably stay away from it for a while, but I don’t want this incident to stop me from living a full life. It just reminds me to always be alert for my allergens, and to listen to my body when it’s telling me something isn’t right. I still enjoy Indian food, but now I know that it is a possible trigger for me and I must be extra careful when ordering it.

I hope that by sharing my experience it will remind you to always take your allergies seriously and get to the hospital when necessary. I stayed calm through the entire experience and tried to think rationally – this can really help when you’re unsure about whether you’re having a reaction or not. Never let anyone tell you that you’re just being panicky either – if YOU think you’re having an allergic reaction, then you need to get to the hospital, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Stay safe everyone!

Hannah L.

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Ethnic Eating: Thai

For many who live with food allergies, eating a style of food that they are unfamiliar with can be very intimidating.  I know lots of people who don’t eat all kinds of Asian foods because they are worried about “secret” ingredients, or are worried that staff at the restaurant won’t understand their allergies.  I’ve often felt the same, and there’s no doubt that ethnic eating is certainly more challenging for those with food allergies, but it IS possible!

ethnic food

There are lots of ethnic foods out there (Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai… etc), but it’s easier if you focus on them one at a time.  Thai is personally my favourite food in general!  Surprising, considering how common peanuts and tree nuts are in thai cooking.  The key is to know which Thai foods you absolutely must NOT eat because they non-negotiably will contain your allergen.  One of those is Hoisin sauce, a peanut sauce which is used in both Thai and Chinese cooking.  It often is served with springrolls or salad rolls.  If a dark brown sauce comes along with your meal, best to double check with the waiter as to what it is.  I always get a pineapple sauce with my meal instead.

Next up to be aware of are mango and papaya salads.  These are often fine to order, but can be topped with cashews or peanuts, and thus you always need to inspect your dish before eating and tell your server about your allergies before ordering.  It is often easy to have dishes modified for your allergies.  For example, Pad Thai is a dish that almost ALWAYS contains peanuts, but I order it wherever I go because it a legendary Thai dish and can almost ALWAYS be modified to not include peanuts, as the peanuts are usually served on the side or sprinkled on top.  Always remind your server of your allergies before ordering and double check the appearance of dishes.  If nuts are visible, the dish contains nuts and you should not eat it!

In terms of soups and curries, many can be fine for nut-allergy sufferers, but you must always check with your server before ordering.  Sometimes servers do not speak the best English.  In this case, unless you are comfortable with the dishes you are ordering and the restaurant itself, I would not feel comfortable eating there.  A good sign is always if the restaurant’s menu has “please let you server know of any allergies before ordering” written at the bottom.

As usual, be extra careful if you are thinking about ordering dessert!

Here’s my go-to Thai menu:

Summer rolls (vegetables wrapped in rice paper) with pineapple sauce

Tom Ka Coconut Soup (flavoured with galangal and kaffir lime leaves – those crispy things that usually come on top are fried onions and are generally safe to eat – at first I thought they were some kind of nut!)

Pad Thai (contains egg and usually sprinkled with peanuts – a delicious noodle dish that is a must at every Thai restaurant, so long as you clearly communicate your allergies)

Curried Eggplant

Pineapple Yellow Curry

Originally posted on nevernuts.tumblr.com

“Allergic Girl” Book Review

I have been busy reading my latest find: “Allergic Girl – adventures in living well with food allergies” by Sloane Miller. This book came out a little while ago, and I’ve been wanting to read it ever since!

Basically, the book is designed to do as it says: help YOU, the allergic person, live life to the fullest with allergies. Sloane is an “allergic girl,” and has been since she was little. She’s an Oxford grad and currently lives the life of a New York socialite. More importantly, she has a hugely popular allergy blog (Please Don’t Pass the Nuts – allergicgirl.blogspot.com) and she is a personal food allergy coach.

As I read the book, I began to realize that for some people, allergies can be really difficult to manage, especially if they’ve been diagnosed later in life. Because I’ve always had allergies, managing them seems a normal part of life; for many, it’s not so simple.

Sloane starts by encouraging the reader to form a “Team You.” This team is composed of individuals who can help manage your allergies: doctors, allergist, parents, “safe” friends (friends who understand your allergies), partners, etc. From there, she builds on how YOU, new allergic girl/boy, can live a wonderful, safe life. Basically, it’s a self-help book, but it’s also well written and a helpful read even if you feel you’ve got your allergy management under control.

I think this book would really benefit someone who is newly diagnosed with food allergies. I was very impressed with how diligent Sloane is in managing her allergies – she calls EVERY restaurant before a meal, whether it be a staff meal, a private function, or just a fun get together. She’s always prepared. At the same time, she’s down-to-earth about allergies. She admits that she’s made some errors in her allergic life (haven’t we all!). With her help, you’ll gain some great tips for managing your allergies at restaurants, in love, with friends, during celebrations, while travelling, and more unpredictable situations.

One thing I noticed is that Benadryl is referenced a few times as an allergy medicine. It’s important to remember that Benadryl is NOT enough to stop an anaphylactic reaction. The most effective and safest treatment of a suspected allergic reaction is to administer your auto-injector (EpiPen or Allerject), and call 911 immediately.

Overall, “Allergic Girl” is a solid read. If you have had your allergies for a long time, it may not always be relevant, but it definitely reassuring for those who feel their allergy management skills are a little off. Read it and let me know what you think!

Partying with Food Allergies

You may be surprised to learn that a person with allergies can actually learn a thing or two from the movie The Heat and by that I mean besides accumulating a shiny new arsenal of curse words which make up the majority of the movie (better to just say “Oh Nuts” in my opinion).

The move "The Heat" features a scene that could be dangerous for a peanut allergic person.

The move “The Heat” features a scene that could be dangerous for a peanut allergic person.

Without revealing too much of what happens in the movie, there is this one scene where Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are livin’ it up at some decrepit looking bar with a bunch of seniors.  It’s pretty funny, until you see the bowl of peanuts on the bar counter and – just a few seconds later – Bullock drunkenly crumbling peanuts shells onto some drunk, passed out biker.  Sure, it’s all in the name of drunken fun, but it kind of reminded me that as a person living with allergies, situations where people loose their inhibitions and sense of good judgement are not always as fun as they may initially be.

Okay, so I know something like this scene may never actually happen in real life, but as much fun as it may be to party, if you have allergies, you need to be careful not to let loose entirely.  It’s possible that you may eat an unknown food that you would unlikely eat in a sober situation. For non-allergic people, this isn’t a big deal.  But for those with allergies, it’s your life you’re gambling with.

Additionally, alcohol impairs the judgement of those around you, which may result in friends or acquaintances attempting to feed you your allergen(s), or throw them at you, etc.  This is something they wouldn’t do in a normal situation, but could very well occur at a party.

If you are going out to party, it’s important to have a plan:

– Know which alcohols contain nuts!  Yes, there are a few. Please take a look at this list of alcohol that may contain nuts such as Frangelico (hazelnut) and Bombay Sapphire Gin (almond). Be sure to call the manufacturer directly if unsure.

 

– You must have your auto-injector on you somewhere, even if you’re wearing tight clothes or not carrying a bag!  It’s not enough to leave it in the car.  If you’re looking for an easy way to carry your epi-pen at the club, maybe try this.  Or, look into the the new Allerject/Auvi-Q auto-injector, which is designed to fit into your pocket.

– Let your friends know of your situation and the risks involved.  Tell them to keep an eye out for you in case of any risky situations.

– Eat before the party.  This way, you won’t be inclined to snack on any munchies or foods provided.

– Don’t share drinks or cups!  There could be traces of your allergen from someone who drank from the bottle/cup before you, and it’s better not to take the chance.

– Wear MedicAlert jewelry or an allergy identification piece of some sort.

How have you managed your allergies while partying?

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!

Easter Baking!

It’s that time of year again: spring is right around the corner (if not here already) and your taste buds are dying for some fun Easter recipes.  Don’t let your allergies stop you from baking just about anything you want!  Almost any allergen can be replaced by something else, and this article has got you covered in that department!  Read on for some cool allergen replacements, and three delicious springtime recipes!

It’s pretty difficult to find a recipe that doesn’t call for butter, flour, or milk, but don’t let that stop you!  Butter can be replaced with half the amount of applesauce or an equal amount of canola oil.  These are totally normal replacements too; vegans use them in place of butter all the time.  Replace milk with soy milk, rice milk, or even water, cup for cup.  Many gluten-free flours can easily replace flour, but another alternative is cornstarch; just use half as much of it as you would flour and you’re good to go.  Yeast can be replaced with a combination of baking soda and powdered vitamin C; just replace the amount of yeast called for equal parts of each substance.  Finally, nuts are the easiest to replace: just leave them out!  Usually nuts are an optional addition to any recipe, but even if they aren’t, you won’t be missing out if you don’t add them.  If you’re allergic to eggs, you can use a product called egg replacer.  Bananas are also a great substitute.

Using those new allergen replacements, try these three recipes!  They’re all free of nuts, and can easily take replacements.  The last one is especially good for allergies!   Let us know how your recipe turns out! Remember to always double check the labels of all of your ingredients to ensure it does not contain your allergens!

(Recipes originally published in Chatelaine Magazine, The Cooking Channel, and Martha Stewart Food).

 

Strawberry and Lemon Cream Cheese Cupcakes1

(Image and recipe from Chatelaine)

For Frosting:

–       250g brick cream cheese, at room temperature

–       ½ cup store-bought or homemade lemon curd

–       ½ cup finely chopped strawberries

For Cupcakes:

–       1 ½ cups all purpose flour

–       1 tsp. baking powder

–       ½ tsp. salt

–       ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

–       1 tbsp. lemon zest

–       1 cup granulated sugar

–       1 tsp. vanilla

–       2/3 cup milk

Directions:

1.    Beat cream cheese in a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, until fluffy.  Gradually beat in lemon curd until smooth.  Refrigerate frosting until ready to use.

2.    Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups.  Stir flour with baking powder and salt.  Beat butter with lemon zest in a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy.  Gradually beat in sugar until combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla.  Gradually beat in a third of the flour mixture, then half the milk.  Repeat additions, ending with remaining third of flour mixture.  Spoon into muffin cups, filling three-quarters full.

3.    Bake in centre of oven for 25 mins.  Enjoy!

Hot Cross Buns

(these are great for almost every common allergen – just use the replacements!)

(Image and recipe from The Cooking Channel)2

Buns:

–       2 ounces fresh yeast

–       2 cups lukewarm milk

–       ¼ cup honey

–       4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

–       3 eggs

–       4 ½ cups flour

–       spice mix (recipe follows)

–       1 teaspoon kosher salt

–       ½ cup dark raisins

–       ½ cup golden raisins

–       glaze (recipe follows)

Directions:

1.    Crumble the yeast into a large mixing bowl and add 1 cup of the warm milk.  Using the dough hook attachment, gently mix together.

2.    Add the honey, butter, 2 eggs, flour, spice mix, salt, and raisins.  Start the mixer and gently pour in the remaining 1 cup of milk while mixing.  The dough should come together as a soft ball after a few minutes of mixing.  If it is too sticky add a few sprinkles of additional flour; if it is too hard add a few more drops of cold milk.

3.    Turn this soft dough out directly onto a sheet pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Let is rise until about doubled in size.

4.    Preheat oven to 350F.

5.    When it has doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Cut the dough in half and each half in half, etc. until you have a dozen pieces.  Shape these pieces into rounds with your hands.  Place these rounds equally spaced apart on a floured piece of parchment on a sheet pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until almost doubled in size.

6.    Beat the remaining egg with a fork in a small bowl.  Very gently brush this mixture on each of the buns.  Using a sharp knife cut a cross shape in the top of each bun.

7.    Bake for about 15 minutes.

8.    When cool, ice each bun with the glaze in a cross shape, following your cuts and using your spatula to drizzle icing on.

Spice Mix:

–       1 ½ teaspoons ground nutmeg

–       1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

–       1 teaspoon ground cloves

–       ¾ teaspoon ground ginger

Glaze:

–       2 cups confectioners’ sugar

–       ¼ cup milk, plus more as needed

Put the sugar in a large bowl with the milk.  Work the sugar and milk together until combined, adding additional milk 1 teaspoon at a time until you have a nice smooth thick glaze.

Polenta French Toast
(for Easter Brunch – not only is this recipe free of gluten, it’s also egg and nut free!)

(Image and recipe from Martha Stewart3

For “French Toast”:

–       ¼ cup corn flour

–       ½ cup maple syrup

–       ½ cup raspberries

For the polenta:

–       6 ½ cups water

–       ½ teaspoon coarse salt

–       2 cups cornmeal (not quick cooking)

–       ½ cup pure maple syrup

–       1 cup raisins

–       2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

–       Finely grated zest of one orange

–       1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

–       1 cup milk

Directions:

1.    Make the polenta: Bring water and salt to a boil in a 2-quart pot.  Add cornmeal in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly.  Cook, stirring often, until mixture begins to thicken, about 4 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring often, for 1 hour.

2.    Stir in syrup, raisins, cinnamon, zest, nutmeg, and milk.  Cook for 30 minutes.  Spread polenta onto a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and let cool.  Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

3.    Make the “French Toast”: Cut cold polenta into 4-inch squares; cut each square into 2 triangles.  Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Toss polenta triangles with corn flour, dusting off excess.  Add to pan; cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Serve with maple syrup and raspberries.

Celebrities with Allergies – if they can deal with them, so can you!

My name is Hannah, and I’m allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is rumoured to have had an allergic reaction

I’ve always found it interesting that celebrities (as perfect as they may seem) actually do have problems, and for some of them that includes dealing with allergies.  Luckily for us normal folk, having celebrities with allergies makes allergies seem a bit more cool and proves that allergies don’t have to stop you from doing what you want to do.

Take Jessica Simpson, for example. She is allergic to tomatoes, wheat, and milk – yet she was the celebrity spokesperson for Pizza Hut!  Perhaps that was not the best choice on her part – but just because you’re allergic to something doesn’t mean that you should be afraid of it. It is better to be careful than afraid.

Drew Brees throwing a football

Drew Brees has a gluten intolerance

Bill Clinton is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, Serena Williams is allergic to peanuts, Drew Barrymore is allergic to garlic and coffee, Drew Brees has gluten intolerance, and Justin Bieber is said to have had an allergic reaction to an undisclosed allergen. Tiger Woods is even allergic to pollen, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying the great outdoors! If those celebrities can live with allergies, then so can you!

The best thing to do if you have allergies is to avoid your allergen and always carry your auto-injector.  Celebrities might have someone who carries it for them, but most of us are not so lucky and must find a way to carry it ourselves.  You can put it in your purse, backpack, or jacket pocket – just make sure that wherever you put it, you always have it on you. Also make sure to check every food label and ask every restaurant about your allergens. Although it may seem like a pain, it’s worth it, and after a while, it just becomes habit. If there is every a point where you don’t feel comfortable eating – don’t!  Sometimes when I walk into a restaurant and I see peanuts on the floor or staff using the same scoops for different flavours of ice cream, I decide not to eat there after all.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods’ pollen allergy doesn’t keep him from enjoying the great outdoors!

Allergies are a serious thing, but they don’t have to control your life. As long as you’re careful and don’t take unnecessary risks (like eating foods labeled with “may contain”), chances are that you will be okay! Just remember that you are not alone, and there are  other people out there – famous or not – who understand what it’s like to live with allergies.

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!