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January 7, 2008

Going to Sixth Grade Camp with Food Allergies

It is amazing for me think that I am the same parent who sent my daughter to both preschool and sixth grade camp. Times have certainly changed for the better. Dealing with her allergies (including the potential of anaphylaxis from peanuts) ten years ago meant having to explain that a peanut allergy is more than a stuffy nose and a rash. Now, at least more people are aware that a peanut allergy means, “Oh, I better listen because I know this is important somehow.” We have always tended to err on the safer side of things, because it is what we felt comfortable with.

For years now I’ve been listening to stories of sixth grade camp. Most parents respond with worries of will their child pack the right things, or how will their child do sleeping over in an unfamiliar place, or how will their sixth grader make it through a whole week without any contact from home? “Can they please take their cell phone in case they need to call home?” But, for those of you also dealing with your child’s food allergies, you know what was going through my mind: how will my daughter make it through the week without an allergic reaction? Will she get enough to eat, or will she be scared and just not eat at all?

Sending her off into an unfamiliar environment was challenging. I wanted so much to foster her independence and not be the overbearing parent. I figured this was one of those landmark moments of how well we did as parents raising our child with the right balance of understanding and comfort with food allergy management. She’s been reading ingredients for as long as she knew that letters formed words. I think peanut and egg ranked in the top five of first words she learned read. She was ready for the challenge, even though I wasn’t quite ready to let go.

I can say with a great deal of confidence that the week was an absolute success!! I felt comfortable with the food allergy management plan we established before she left. The camp nurse conveyed confidence with our plan, enough to put me at ease. But most importantly, my sixth grader was confident enough with the plan we laid out, that she was able to worry about things like which clothes to pack and if she could be quick enough to make the time-limit of the two minute shower!!

I have learned a lot over the past ten years. I know how important it is to be level headed and open-minded when developing a food allergy management plan. It is crucial to convey concern without using "life threatening allergy" language or other alarm ringers. Yes, it is life threatening, I know that as much as anyone. But it’s all in the way you approach it. And the more aware the public becomes of food allergies, the easier it is for us to safely manage them.

Posted by Ann Marie at January 7, 2008 1:14 PM


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