When you're an allergy mom, you learn to be prepared. You learn to be prepared because you know that if you're not, it could mean life or death. For some, being organized and being prepared comes naturally; while for others (ahem...), life can feel like a blur of diaper changing, piles of dirty laundry, overdue library books, toys spilling out of every crevice of your house--well, you get the picture.
For those of us who find ourselves, shall we say, organizationally challenged, summer camp season will tend to sneak up on us. This year, we are vowing to start early. It's May. We're gonna talk summer...check a few items off the list and you'll feel much better. I promise.
Take an inventory of your child's allergy medications--both prescription and non. Most insurance plans will only allow you one Epipen per month, so if two or more of yours needs replacing, you should call into your pharmacy today to make sure to get the ball rolling (which reminds me, I need to do a pick-up at Walgreens today...). They might have similar restrictions for asthma inhalers (sorry, I'm not as knowledgeable on this). If they'll allow it, you'll need at least two sets of meds for camp--one in his backpack as well as a set with the camp administration.
Don't forget about any environmental allergies your child may have, especially if he'll be spending a lot of time outdoors--symptoms may manifest themselves much more fervently than they did when your child was sitting inside a classroom for most of the day. Stock up on any meds he might need for prevention or relief.
By the way, since the Benadryl recall I have not been able to find any of it in melt tab or tablet form for kids (or even those squirting travel pack thingies). Just yesterday, I noticed a generic version in a kids grape melt tab at Target and picked up a stash. Ask your doctor about it if you're unsure. And if you do add these to his medication bag, you'll need to list them on your Food Allergy Action Plan.
My what? Your Food Allergy Action Plan. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) has a link on their site that enables you to easily print out the form in one of 8 languages. Print it out, fill it out, and attach a recent picture of your child to it. Make copies so you won't have to fill it out over and over again. Better yet, if you are due for an appointment with your allergist (or if you end up making an appointment just to touch base--probably a good idea), you can bring in a blank form and have the doctor answer any questions you have about the form. Have the doctor sign and date it so you can use it all summer. While you're at your allergist's office, update any prescriptions which have or are about to expire.
Some Q & A
When you're searching for camps suitable for your child, ask each program about its experience with allergy preparedness and experience with food allergies. Some questions to ask:
1. What food allergy training has your staff received?
2. What is your experience with anaphylaxis/administering Epipens/severe food allergies/asthma, etc?
3. What is your emergency plan for severe allergic reactions?
4. What food is prepared by or given to the participants, and how would you accommodate my child and his food allergies?
5. What is your peanut policy?
A camp's experience (or non-experience) with allergies doesn't have to be an end-all. Use your good judgment and instincts. If you're set on a particular camp that doesn't happen to have much knowledge of food allergies, offer to send them some resources that they can use to help train their staff (more coming soon!).
Prepare an allergy emergency kit for the camp to keep while he's in their care, along with another one for his backpack or as a back-up to be kept at home or in your bag. Tristan's is just a freezer bag with his name and allergies listed on the outside. Take the Sharpie and label everything inside with his name, too. The emergency kit should contain: allergy medications as instructed by your child's doctor (including cortisone creams, allergy eye drops, inhaler, epipen, etc.) and a copy of your child's Food Allergy Action Plan. I also keep sunscreen in his pack for those three or four days the sun manages to push through the summer fog. Get into the habit now of applying the sunscreen every morning before school if you haven't already, and show him how to apply it himself so he'll be able to reapply when you're not around. If he has really sensitive skin, teach him to use only his sunscreen (For Tristan, random sunscreen + sweat = skin rash/eczema flare-up).
Start drafting a letter to present to the camps about your child's allergies. Don't freak out about doing this. It's your chance to tell your side of the story, and personalize your child's allergies. We will post some examples to help you get started soon!
On the first day of camp, bring in another copy of your child's Food Allergy Action Plan, his allergy emergency kit(s), and the personal letter detailing your child's experience with allergies. Make sure to introduce your child to each teacher or caretaker so that they can identify him, and so that he can recognize them if he needs to ask for help. Show the staff how to identify his allergies on his allergy bracelet/necklace--it's a helpful and quick reference until they've learned all his allergies.
Be a Chatterbox
Keep an open dialogue with the staff and insist that they keep you informed of any allergic reactions or allergy-related issues they may be concerned of. If cooking lessons or snacks worry you, gather information about ingredients in advance so you'll know whether you need to provide alternate snacks or have him pass on the cooking this time (I know, sad...but better safe than sorry. Logan came home once with an eyelid almost swollen shut after a cooking lesson that used eggs).
Teach Your Kid
Continue educating your child about keeping herself safe from allergic reactions--not sharing food, identifying allergens, washing hands before and after eating, etc.
Stay positive and know that you are being a fabulous mom by providing your children with the opportunities and memories that will impact their lives in so many ways. All in the name of love!