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!

Babysitting Allergy Dilemma

Babysitting is something a lot of teens do to make a few dollars but have you ever thought about the precautions you must take when you have allergies? The worst thing to happen is to have an allergic reaction when babysitting, as you are supposed to be taking care of other people.

Here’s a few allergy safe babysitting tips. First of all, if it is your first time babysitting for a family, make sure to tell them about your allergies. That way if you are feeding the kids, the food that you are giving them can be prepared to not have any of your allergens in it.

Second, when you babysit, parents sometimes tell you that you can eat one of their snacks. If you don’t feel comfortable eating their food, it is completely reasonable to bring your own snacks.  When you get to the babysitting house, make sure that there is none of your allergens lying around. If there is, politely ask the parents to store it out of sight, and not to take it out while you are there.  

 
Here is a little story that happened to me. I always thought that babysitting wasn’t something that was affected by my allergies. When I got to this one house, the parents asked me if I could make the kids dinner and feed them one hour from then. I said okay and asked what I should make. They said I should feed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told her I couldn’t because I was allergic to peanuts and they said they didn’t have any other food so I was going to have to make them that.

They left and I was in a panic because I did not know what to do. I called my mom who quickly brought over soy butter. I made them soy butter and jelly sandwiches. I told the kids that it was peanut butter and jelly and they seemed to have no idea that it was really soy butter. When the parents got home I told them that I didn’t feel comfortable feeding their kids if they were going to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the next time I went over, the parents luckily had something else for me to make them for dinner.

Here’s what I want you to remember from this story: it is always best to let the parents you are babysitting for know about your allergies before heading over for the first time to avoid awkward situations like this one.

Double Checking with Wait Staff

Originally when I was planning to write this blog, I thought that I would write some tips on how to keep safe with allergies when going out. However, since then I have gone out and had my own close call. Luckily, it didn’t end in a reaction, but it could have very well happened.

I was coming home from a skiing trip and we were staying in a hotel in Ottawa for the night. We were all very hungry and had no food to eat, so we decided to go out. We asked the front desk about restaurants in the area, and like always, being the only one with food allergies in my family, I got to choose the restaurant. I decided to go to a restaurant chain that I had eaten at before, although I had never been to this current location.

When we got to the restaurant the first thing I did was tell the waitress about my allergies, and that they were life-threatening. She didn’t seem to do much but nod her head. To be safe, as I am allergic to mustard, I usually go with pizza or pasta, but I always check just in case. This time I ordered plain pasta with rosé sauce. I asked her if she could check with the kitchen to make sure the food was safe and she said that she was sure it was okay. I didn’t feel comfortable with that since waiters and waitresses wouldn’t always know every ingredient in every dish in the restaurant. I also ordered a side dish for my meal and the waitress did the same thing so I really didn’t feel safe.

Waitress

After my salad came with a dressing that I couldn’t eat on the side (which ended up spilling!), my parents told me I should ask to speak to the manager. I said that I didn’t want to make a fuss, but my parents told me that if I didn’t ask and had a reaction, I would be making more of a fuss. You should never be worried to ask to speak to the manager, you are not making a fuss. Remember it is your life on the line. After the manager came over he went into the kitchen, got me a new salad, and checked to make sure all my dishes were okay. Luckily, they were all safe and my meal was good.

After we finished our meal the waitress asked us if we wanted dessert. Since I’m allergic to peanuts, I usually don’t get dessert. I said I don’t think I’m going to have any, and she responded by saying that none of the desserts have peanuts or nuts in it. I told her that I would look at the menu if she could come back. Sure enough, when I opened the dessert menu, the first item was peanut butter layered chocolate cake. The desserts definitely didn’t have any peanuts in them. LOL. 😉

I was lucky that I didn’t end up having a reaction. The key is to always make sure you feel safe, even if you have an inexperienced waiter. You shouldn’t, however, let your allergies stop you from going out!

Avoiding Cross-Contamination

Cross-Contamination

“This dish has none of your allergens in it, it’s safe for you to eat.” That is a familiar phrase that many of us with allergies hear, but unfortunately it’s not always true. Sometimes there is a risk of cross-contamination. As allergies are seemingly becoming more common and more people are becoming aware of allergies, it seems as though many still have trouble understanding cross-contamination.

I find it really frustrating to think you can eat something, to only find out that it was prepared in an unsafe environment. It is very important that you clearly tell the people who are preparing your food what needs to be done to avoid cross-contamination. People might have trouble understanding, so it is important that you give them details on how your food can’t come into contact with any of your allergens. Below is a list of a few things that you should tell the person who is making your food to help avoid cross-contamination.

1. Your food can’t come into contact with your allergen (i.e. it can’t just be picked off the top of your food.)

2. All the kitchen equipment (e.g. pans or cutting boards) that will be used for your dish needs to be cleaned thoroughly before preparing your food.

3. Allergens can stay on sponges or towels so it’s best to clean surfaces with disposable paper towels or wipes.

Buying packaged food can pose different challenges in terms of cross-contamination. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to talk to the people who manufacture the food about their process as it is in a restaurant. That’s why it’s important to call or email the company directly and ask if you are ever unsure. Sometimes a product will say it “may contain” an allergen. It’s important that you never take a chance with these products, as they are potentially risky.

My trick is to stick with companies that I know and trust. I don’t buy things I’m unsure about. For example, if a brand has one type of cookies that seems okay for me, but they also manufacture another cookie with peanut butter, I would stay away. However, some companies may have different factories for different products. That’s why it’s important to get in touch with them directly to find out the risk.

Remember, more precautions you take the less likely it is that there will be cross-contamination.

For more information on cross-contamination, visit Anaphylaxis Canada’s website at: http://www.allergysupportcentre.ca/cross-contamination.html

Dining Out Tips for the Allergic Teen

Image
Hello, my name is Samantha and I am 13 years old. I’m allergic to peanuts, mustard, and kiwi. I enjoy dining out and my favourite type of restaurant is Italian. Luckily I have never had an allergic reaction at a restaurant, but have learned a lot from a few bad experiences. Here are some tips I have learned along the way that have helped me stay safe.
  • If you have multiple allergies, it may be a good idea to visit a restaurant where a chef can make certain substitutions. One of the disadvantages of fast-food restaurants is that they have standardized food that often cannot be altered upon request.
  • If you are going to a new restaurant, make sure to call ahead to see if they can make a safe meal for you.
  • When you get there make sure to explain your allergies clearly and remind them of cross contamination. You may want to double check for specific items that you are ordering. For me, I make it clear that mustard is a spice and ask whether it is in certain sauces, dressings or seasonings.
  • It’s a good idea to speak to the chef or manager just to make sure that they can accommodate your allergies. They are likely used to having allergic guests and should be able to inform you of what is safe and what isn’t.
  • If you know a restaurant is safe for you, keep going back there but remember to double check what you’re ordering every time as ingredients and recipes may change. If you and your friends are going out for dinner, try to suggest somewhere that you know is okay for you.
The last time I was out for dinner was over Christmas break. I was going to a restaurant that I had never been to before. It was Italian food, but I still made sure to call ahead. They said that they could make a special meal for me, but they had a feeling I could have their regular pizza. When I got there I made sure to explain my allergies really well and ended up with a really tasty pizza. I went away happy and plan to go back there!
Wherever you choose to dine out, be sure to call ahead, explain your allergies to the waitress/chef/manger, ask what is safe to eat, and enjoy a delicious meal! As always – remember to bring your auto-injector!
Bon appetite!