Vacation season is upon us, and we all want nothing more than experiencing a well-deserved break, take some time off work, routine, and spend some quality time with our families. And although we would all love to splurge and spend lots of money on a luxury vacation- that is not always realistic. Along with the new year that is fast approaching, often draws new expenses- maybe another child is entering the school system, a child is starting college, university, or perhaps a career change which could weigh on the shoe strings somewhat- which is why many families choose to go camping instead. With approximately 40 million Americans going camping each year and increasing more than 1 million households planning to camp each year since 2014- this trend is anything but slowing down.
Besides economic benefits, experts say that it is a wonderful chance to have a deeply grounded and rich vacation, qualities that cannot be overlooked. Professionals say that camping with your family, friends, or schoolmates can be a very intense bonding experience, both with others and with yourself. It’s a break from life, not only of the body but of the mind. Away from technology, the busy pace we live, and a chance to reconnect with nature.
Additionally, many sleep-away camps are now including camping in their itinerary. No parent wants their child to miss out on an opportunity to camp with their friends or stop the family from going together, and there is no need to. With a few safety precautions and some planning ahead, you can send your child camping with a light heart- and watch them return a new person.
Ironically the first thing that needs attention is the exit strategy. This includes the distance to the nearest ambulance and hospital. Think about questions such as how do you plan on contacting emergency services in case of need? Will you always have reception on your phone? And how difficult is it for the paramedic to get to your location? Consider bringing a satellite phone with you just in case the worst-case scenario occurs. If you are camping near a small town, it also might be a smart idea to contact their emergency services before your trip- informing them of the dates you plan on being nearby, your medical situation, and your exit strategy. This will put your heart at ease and allow you to enjoy your trip more, but it will also allow emergency services to know what to expect when they may not support the personal and expertise found in larger cities. If camping in a group, make sure that not only is each member aware of your allergies but that they know what to do in case of an emergency.
Don’t let the discussion about creating an exit strategy scare you- although it is necessary, it’s (hopefully) only a precaution. A better way to look at camping is to think of it as an escape, have some control over your environment, and not be at the mercy of the local restaurants.
Food is at the front of the mind for someone with food allergies, but going camping offers a unique opportunity to be part of the group with less hassle. In general, people try to bring along as little as possible while camping, so many of the additional ingredients that create challenges for people with food allergies aren’t around. This erases problematic sauces and spices containing common ingredients that people are allergic to- like peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, and soy. Other items generally on the shopping list are canned goods which can be easily arranged to be safe according to your particular allergies.
Also, most of the time, camping meals consist of basic ingredients like BBQs with roasted potatoes and meat or chicken or freshly caught fish, so unless you are allergic to fish, meat, or chicken, you’re already a step ahead. However, since shellfish is a common allergy, those people have to take care to use a separate BBQ and bring their own utensils. Another thing to consider is ensuring you bring along many safe snacks with you that will last in the weather you are expecting.
Everyone knows that camping isn’t camping without S’mores. And lucky for people with allergies, they are relatively easy to adapt to almost any allergy unless you are allergic to Gelatine. The main issue could be the chocolate made in factories that process nuts, sesame, and other common allergies, besides the possibility it could contain dairy. This issue is easy to get around simply by telling the camp director which chocolate to buy or by supplying the chocolate yourself.
Sometimes families choose to utilize the facilities of a campsite, allowing the participants to use certain public utilities such as communal showers, restrooms, and kitchen areas. If this is the case, “it’s important to remember to practice safe food-handling procedures to avoid cross-contamination with camp cooking,” says Dr. Greenhawt. Bring along your own dishes, pots and pans, knives, and cutting boards. Assume that you will be unable to sterilize any communal dishes to make them allergy-safe in a camping environment. Keep all your things separate from everyone else’s, and all your food will remain allergy-safe.
Carrying your Epi-pen around with you and ensuring that it will be safe in the outdoor climate is very important when camping outdoors. It’s an easy mistake to leave your Epi-pen at the campsite when going hiking or swimming. Still, medication can get lost, or your fellow campers may not know where it is if emergency-so campers have to be extra careful to make sure it is always with them. Consider buying a small waterproof or thermal bumper bag so it can be close-by at all times and easily accessible.
One of the main benefits of sending your child camping alone is the chance to equip them with the skills to self-advocate. Sit down with your child, coach them on asking the right questions, and encourage her always to speak up if something doesn’t seem right- or if they’re unsure. Spend the month before the trip practicing with your child. Help her practice asking you the questions before she eats dinner or asks for a snack. Besides preparing your child for the future, you empower your child on how to deal with the many situations that life will present them in the future.
A single bite from the Lone Star tick can cause people to develop an allergy to red meat. This phenomenon doesn’t differentiate with age or gender. Although it is predominantly found in the Southeast of America- from Texas to New England, people are becoming more alarmed with more and more cases being reported. The wisest steps to take are prevention. So if you or your family are planning to go camping in an area known to be the home of the Lone Star tick, wear long cotton sleeves and pants- and spray liberal amounts of Insect Repellent according to the bottle's instructions. After the bite, the body becomes allergic to alpha-gal, where the reaction to the allergen often takes several hours. This can confuse diagnosing someone with allergies to meat so see your doctor for a blood test to confirm your potential allergy if you have a suspicion.
Above all, remember to take the time to look up at the sky at night, notice the stars and hear the sound of silence that only a camping trip can provide.
During our recent visit to Israel, we really struggled to find food for our son who has anaphylactic level allergies to egg and sesame. We approached both restaurants and hotels and were told they were unable or unwilling to take responsibility for preparing his food.
After learning about Dr. Eliana on-line, we contacted her in the hopes that she could provide a ‘normal’ restaurant experience for our family.
Both she and Shani were meticulous in their preparations with the restaurants to ensure that our son had a wonderful and safe experience.
We truly appreciate their efforts to take care of our son, and to provide us with a lovely vacation experience.
T.M., Chicago, USA
We want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing gift you have given us over this Pesach- the gift of having you with us!!!!
We have NEVER felt more comfortable, calm, and at ease than we did these past 10 days. Your warmth, professionalism, kindness, and care shown through in all that you did.
My children are so grateful that they were able to be with you this Pesach. You made sure that they were so well looked after and they felt so at ease and comfortable with you! You were so amazing and approachable to them! And they LOVED all the food you so amazingly prepared (supervised allergy-free food preparation, managed menus) for them!
It’s very difficult for us to trust people when it comes to our kids and allergies. You magically were able to take away ALL of our anxieties, and nervousness (and we don’t give that away so easily!!)
We can never fully thank you enough. We truly feel that you instantly became part of our family and we look forward to G-d willing being able to be with you and plan amazing trips with you many many many more times!!!!
Thank you and may Hashem bless you for the work you do. My son Jacob said your allergy card has been very helpful. I am so grateful- beyond words.
L.R., NY, NY
Thank you for delivering our allergy free baked goods to our hotel. We just tasted the focaccia and it was delicious!
All the best,
S.C., New Jersey
We can't thank you enough for assembling this top-notch team of specialists to work with our daughter while she is in Israel.
T.G., Philadelphia, PA
"Food Allergy Concierge assisted us with a very helpful, detailed customized allergy card in Hebrew. The Allergy card was extremely helpful for multiple allergies and allowed us to eat safely in several eateries and hotels. Highly recommended.”
G.A. Illinois USA
My family ordered a week's worth of food from Food Allergy Concierge during the most recent lockdown. Having the food on hand, and knowing that it was safe for everyone in the family to eat, helped turn the lockdown into a stay-cation! We were still able to take a break from cooking and worrying, and we look forward to using FAC's services again in the future.