This week is Food Allergy Awareness week, and this month is Celiac Disease Awareness month. To honor both of these, we are participating on the bi-weekly Food Allergy carnival and talking about summer camp despite food restrictions
Our family has Celiac Disease, an intolerance to dairy, and LG has a severe berry allergy. We bring our own food to birthday parties, parks, and playdates, but I never wanted the dietary restrictions to restrict the girls’ access to activities. Occasionally an event is so food-centered that we can’t participate, but as food restrictions become more well-known, we can go to more and more events without risking a reaction.
Some days, it feels like our food allergies are a complete non-issue. Kids play here or in the neighborhood and they eat popcorn, we go to the park and have some chips, we hang out at the beach with some trail mix, etcetera. Some days it is an issue – my girls take some treats when they go over to a friend’s house, or they can’t stay for dinner with a friend, or there’s an activity that looks great except that it includes cooking with flour or using play-doh, or when a friend’s been eating a sandwich then puts their hand in your chips, which means you can’t eat the chips any more. Those are the hard days, and the days that keep me on my toes, keep me from becoming complacent.
Last year BG and MG went to camp for 2 weeks (check out BG in the above photo from the camp brochure!). It’s a day camp, and they had a week off at home to rest in between the two camp sessions. Thanks to their grandparents, they were able to go to a wonderful camp on an island, taking a boat to and from the island each day. To make it even more special, it’s a camp I attended for 10 years. Is it tricky to attend camp when you can’t eat a regular sandwich and need to have kids wash up after they eat a sandwich? Yes, but it’s totally worth it. Their heads are filled with memories from those weeks, and we are happy to do the prep work so they can attend.
My mother talked to the camp and counselors about the girls’ dietary needs, and so did I. We discussed lunch and snack times, papier maché (no flour/water paste), play-doh, and the need for hand-washing. While I am saddened by the number of children with peanut allergies, their existence has really helped raise awareness about food allergies and restrictions. Everyone at the camp was comfortable with the girls dietary needs and happy to help out. This was key for me – if you find what looks like a great camp, but they seem clueless about food allergies, back away! You don’t want to risk your child’s health for summer camp – find another camp.
This year they’re attending camp for 2 consecutive weeks and it will also include a sleep-over on the island. We will continue to work in advance to help keep camp safe for the girls, and I’m sure the counselors will continue to be as helpful this summer as they were last summer! First, we asked that our girls wash hands before they eat, and have their friends wash hands after they eat. This reduces the chances of cross-contamination, and is generally a healthy idea anyhow. Food sharing is a no-no at most camps now, but a reminder about that printed on lunch bags is a great idea, too.
In advance we bought a variety of favorite snacks, and plenty of snack-size and sandwich size ziplocs. This is much more economical than buying everything in single size bags, and it gives you a greater range of snacks – not everything is sold in little bags! We also froze bottles of water so they would keep the food cold and give the girls cold water later in the day. We don’t usually do a lot of juice, so it was special to have juice boxes or pouches for their lunch!
One trick for us was to include a fair amount of protein, as camp requires a lot of energy, and low amounts of protein tend to make my kids grumpy! Peanuts and nuts are safe for us, and great for a protein kick (we all love Larabar Bars Variety Pack and KIND Bar Almond & Apricot), but they aren’t allowed in most schools or camps. Instead, we added meat sticks (such as Jack Links Super Size Beef Sticks), beef jerky (such as World Kitchens Brown Sugar Beef Jerky), and nut-free trail mix (such as Enjoy Life Trail Mix Not Nuts! Beach Bash). If you’re looking to stock up, you can get great prices on allergy-safe and gluten-free treats at Amazon.
LG has an epi-pen and is the one with the severe berry allergy. She’s still too young for the day camp on the island, and I’m grateful. I wouldn’t be comfortable with having her on an island with a potentially anaphylactic allergy. We can hope she outgrows it in the next two years! I’m still working out my comfort level with having her go on field trips with people who aren’t me, her dad, or her grandparents.
What accommodations have your kids needed for camp? Check back tomorrow for a link to the Food Allergy Carnival!
[...] Our family has Celiac Disease, an intolerance to dairy, and LG has a severe berry allergy. We bring our own food to birthday parties, parks, and playdates, but I never wanted the dietary restrictions to restrict the girls’ access to activities. Occasionally an event is so food-centered that we can’t participate, but as food restrictions become more well-known, we can go to more and more events without risking a reaction. Read the rest of the entry [...]
Thanks for sharing. I’m excited to try some of the products you suggested like the Enjoy Life Trail Mix. We don’t have kiddos old enough for camp but we’ll be vacationing this summer and these are some great ideas.
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