5th grade Outdoor Science Camp next week. Mom is scared.

Posted on: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 9:22am
LL's picture
Joined: 03/27/2001 - 09:00

Okay, I feel guilty because I haven't been on these boards very much, and I know I should have checked in before about this. But, my peanut allergic daughter (nearly lost her life as a toddler to peanuts) is going off for a week in the mountains for her Outdoor Science School. The same areas where they had all those fires last October? Anyhow. I've been working closely with the camp director, nurse, our principal, our school nurse. I'm sending up Epi's. The director confirmed by phone that they are not going to serve peanuts...I hear everything I want to hear, but the bottom line is that this is way, way the heck up the mountains...A good hour plus to any kind of hospital and it terrifies me. The school has made sure the kids can't miss this trip without being left out of a major milestone in their lives.
I have worked hard to put all the right things in place. But, what would you do?

Just wondering.


Posted on: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 9:50am
vlcarnes's picture
Joined: 11/17/2005 - 09:00

I have a severely peanut allergic 7-year old, so I know your fears. It certainly sounds as if this trip is very important, but consider long-term whether this is an activity that is really so important in the scheme of life. Please keep in mind that I'm only responding because you asked. I would NEVER judge you or anyone on how they would handle this situation. It's very difficult for you and I'm sure your child.
That said, I just would not participate. I just wouldn't risk it. It's one of those things where you need to take it out of the intensity of the moment to see you I can evaluate with more perspective whether it's really necessary at this stage in the child's life. It's one thing if it's high school and the child is a bit more independent. I mean at 10 or 11, they aren't really even capable of self-administering an Epi. I just think kids are pushed too fast these days. I just don't think it's necessary to send a 10-year old up to the mountains -- no matter what the educational value. I wouldn't even take my child on a trip like that myself for fear that we wouldn't be close enough to a hospital. Maybe I'm over protective, but again, in the scheme of life, you're the only one who's going to protect your child. No one else has at stake what you do.
That's my 2 cents. Sorry you have to make such a difficult decision. I'm sure you'll do the right thing for your family.
Good luck!

Posted on: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 12:19pm
mpeters's picture
Joined: 10/28/2001 - 09:00

I know there is not much time left, but would it be possible for you to go as a chaperone? And if so would that help you feel better?
I took my daughter to a one week forestry camp, I went as a counselor. She LOVED it! They knew about the allergy ahead of time, they had a nurse on staff. I think the hospital was 30 or 60 minutes away, we had several epi-pens and I think oral steroids along. (sorry it has been a couple of years so I have forgotten some of the details) She was never without a parent present (my husband was one of the instructors) They did serve peanuts and peanut butter (which I knew about ahead of time) she had her own jelly jar that I kept, as well as her own food and snack supplies for anything questionable. Our family had our own cabin where her supplies were kept. She had several contact reactions (not surprising) and took tons of Benadryl, but really it was an unforgetable experience and I felt it was well worth it.

Posted on: Wed, 01/23/2008 - 10:21pm
lj's picture
Joined: 01/26/2006 - 09:00

I second the bit about being a chaperone.
I would not try to deny your daughter the opportunity of going on a trip like this. I remember back to when I was that age and remember vividly class trips that we took. She will feel like an outsider if not allowed to go. I do understand your fears - believe me I would be right there with you.
I would volunteer to be a chaperone whether she likes it or not. You do not have to participate in the activities, just be there as a support. The school may like having an extra set of hands and an extra set of eyes on her. Offer to pay your way, bring your own food, etc.
Best of luck!

Posted on: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 3:18am
Lindensmom's picture
Joined: 09/21/2007 - 09:00

How much oversight do you have of the food served? Many camps have a pre-planned menu, so you could review everything that will be served ahead of time. You would have to call the campsite to find out. Are kids being allowed to bring their own snacks from home? If not, do all the counselors know this, and do they understand the importance of enforcing it? This would all be good info to have when you make your decision. Are the counselors parents or teens making extra money? Do the teachers that are going, director, and nurse seem very allergy aware or kinda clueless? Remember that the downside of a camp is that it is far away from a hospital, but the upside is that kids are very limited in their access to food that you haven't approved, depending on the "snacks from home" policy.
I treasured field trips as a kid - I hope your child doesn't have to miss this, but I understand that her safety takes priority over anything else. If you do decide to skip it, could you let her pick the next family vacation spot?

Posted on: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 3:20am
Lindensmom's picture
Joined: 09/21/2007 - 09:00

Forgot to say - I also think it would be ideal if you could go as a counselor - I know that was already suggested. I'll cross my fingers for you that it can be worked out!

Posted on: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 11:35am
LL's picture
Joined: 03/27/2001 - 09:00

Hi, there:
Yes, I do wish I did not have to be dealing with this, and I know many parents would not send their child up there with this allergy. I also that they have peanut allergic kids up there every week and...knock on wood...so far. Well, you know.
That having been said. My child will be devastated if I don't allow her to go. And there are other severely peanut allergic kids attending the program with her.
And I have sent up three double pack Epi pen kits, daily meds (Zyrtec in the AM, Benedryl at night. Xopenex inhaler as needed.) and she has permission to eat only food I provide should she have any doubts about the menu, which they insist will be peanut allergy safe.
I have spoken to the principals of both on several occasions, the nurses, too. I have been quite clear about my concerns regarding accidental exposure and the need to give epinepherine right away. And the right training to all their councilors, and to let my child carry her shots with her at all times.
I have sent up a sign for her table and her cabin. I have requested that her buddies who keep a safe watch out for her be in her cabin.
And I have asked to go up there. I'm not told that it's impossible, but I can tell it would be seen as detrimental to the children, and would be viewed as over protective and undermining her independence.
Okay. I really don't care what THEY think, I care what my child thinks. She would probably feel funny if I went up, so I have to make my call before Monday. I either send her up to the mountains having done what I need to do and trust the process, or pull her out and hope she'll forgive me for denying her a trip/experience the entire class will talk about nonstop for the rest of her fifth grade year. It will be very hard for her.
Sure, I know. Illness and death is clearly the real issue, but how much can I protect her. Every day she goes to school, it's risk. And you can't imagine how badly she'll feel if I say she can't go. I know I'll feel badly, too. But, so what? I'm used to that, I'm a "peanut mom." Everyone knows we're crazy, right?
I guess my point is; I've done everything I can think of to do. If, God forbid, and accident should occur, my being there won't change what they'd do to help her. We would still be an hour from the nearest hospital and I'm personally sending up 6 Epi pens and drilling in the worst case scenarios to all the "powers-that-be" as much as I reasonably can.
In an ideal world, she wouldn't have this allergy. And/or they'd have offered to let me go up there. But, anyone on these boards knows that things rarely are "ideal" and so I'm doing the best I can to let my child have space and take risks, but not get hurt.
It's a tough call. My husband is less opinionated about these things than I am, so naturally, the big decisions like this seem to fall to me.
It's Thursday. Their bus pulls out early Monday morning.
With any luck she'll get the stomach flu on Sunday...Just kidding.
With any luck I'll be at peace with my decision on Monday.
Just thought I'd let you know where I'm coming from after reading these very nice and thoughtful replies to my posting.
I respect how any parent manages this allergy, it's so hard for us to know what to do. It always seems to come down to some moral choices, in the end, in how to best raise our kids.
I'll let you know what happens.
And thank you again for all your thoughtful words.

Posted on: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 11:39am
LL's picture
Joined: 03/27/2001 - 09:00

Again, thank to you to everyone who has taken the time to write me about my dilemma.
Believe me, my FIRST thought was, "No problem! I'll volunteer to go up and help." Well, not. It was flatly shot down as an option. So, I gave up. I suppose I could make a fuss and insist on going, but it would so not be worth the drama it would create. So, I've been working behind the scene on this for months. What can I say?
Anyhow. Thanks for the advice. I really appreciate it.

Posted on: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 11:43am
LL's picture
Joined: 03/27/2001 - 09:00

I hear you. I would have loved to go along.
As it is, she's going to eat off her own paper/plastic plates/utensils. And she knows to get help right away if she even suspects a problem. And they tell me there will not be any peanuts/peanut oil or peanut butter items served whatsover.
I'm still nervous.
I'm still weighing it all.
Thanks again for your kind and thoughtful words.

Posted on: Thu, 01/24/2008 - 11:45am
LL's picture
Joined: 03/27/2001 - 09:00

Hi, there.
Thanks again for the great advice.
They hire out all the councelors already. And the fifth grade teachers from her school are going along.
And they have a nurse on the grounds.
They are saying and doing everything I would want to hear.
Except, naturally, "come on up."
Anyhow. Thanks again for everything.

Posted on: Fri, 01/25/2008 - 3:35am
stephklem's picture
Joined: 02/03/2006 - 09:00

I know you've replied...and replied...and replied...but I would like to add something. I have posted on here before, not as the parent of a food allergic child, but as a school nurse. I also happen to be a camp nurse in the summer. Last year we had three severely allergic children. The closest hospital is a good 30-45 minutes away. I personally educated the entire camp staff on how to use epi pens and how to recognize an allergic reaction. We did not have the best of circumstances; the cabins they slept in were food free, although other kids in the cabin were not happy with that (they didn't mistreat the allergic child, however), but there was peanut butter for lunch. Being that it is summer camp, and there were over 200 kids there, it was virtually impossible to make sure that everyone washed their hands. They pushed open the dining hall doors with what I am quite sure were peanut butter covered hands! Quite honestly, I was a nervous wreck and told the director I was not comfortable with the way things were. I was very frank with the parents. I told them I was comfortable dealing with an accidental ingestion, but I could not give them guarantees. The whole thing made me quite nervous, but guess what? Nothing happened. The other kids were very careful with the children with allergies. The staff practiced and practiced how to use epi pens. We had a drill on what we would do in the case of an allergic reaction while out in the "field" away from main camp. All of the children were safe. And I got a lovely gift from one of the families at the end of camp!
My point is this: we were by no means an ideal place for children with food allergies, and my heart would not break if they didn't return. They were sweet, wonderful kids, but I swear I aged about 20 years, and I feel that there are more appropriate camps. You, however, sound as though you are in a great situation. Much more controlled with precautions in place. I bet your daughter will be fine - so I hope you are able to rest comfortably and trust that they will take good care of her.


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