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September 17, 2005

Camping with Child Food Allergies

I've been asked about how I handle camping with kids with food allergies, so here's some thoughts and a little advice. When we first started camping, it was a pretty scary thought process. It's one thing if you are camping with just your family but what if many families will be there? When you think about all the different foods that have been cooked on the grill before yours, there is a real risk. Add to that the fact that parents and kids are running around with all kinds of snacks (especially the perennial favorite - trail mix) and it can make you re-think even going on the trip.

Now, we camp about 6-8 times a year. We go with a large group of dads and kids for about 2-3 days. My kids have different allergies but the biggest worry is a peanut allergy - so, my comments focus on that particular allergen. You will, of course, adjust as necessary.

So, here some tips for camping with child food allergies:

1) Plan your meals in advance. If you are not already doing this in your day-to-day lives, you are missing out on a good food allergy management technique.

2) Pack "back-up" meals and snacks. You may not need them but it is better to bring them back home then not have them in a pinch.

3) Bring tin foil. This way your child's food can be cooked on the same grill (unless little Billy likes raw meat) as all the other meals without concern of cross-contamination.

4) Plan on bringing an extra cooler (one more than everyone else) for the extra snacks and meals. In our case, two of our kids have food allergies so that extra cooler is not a small one.

5) Ask your friends to not bring peanut butter, peanuts, trail mix, etc. Count on someone forgetting and breaking out the trail mix round the camp fire. A gentle reminder usually results in it being put away to avoid an accident.

6) Understand the activities planned for the weekend. Is there an activity that involves food? Races where peanuts are pushed with your nose? The raw egg toss? If there is something planned that is dangerous for your child, suggest a non-food related replacement activity. "How bout we do a water baloon toss instead?"

7) Think about where you will keep the Epi-Pens. We often camp in the mountains and desert here in Southern California, so temps can vary drastically (freezing to scortching hot). How will you make sure the epinephrine is kept at a safe temp. Sometimes hanging in the tent or kept on your person just doesn't work. (Hint: small insulated coolers are a great solution)


So, there you have it, some tips to make camping a little safer for you and your child with a food allergy. Any other suggestions? Go ahead and comment. Now, go pitch that tent and have a blast with your kids!

Posted by David at September 17, 2005 12:36 PM