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Camp will be an experience that I’ll never forget…

March 29, 2012

Girl at summer campHi everyone! I’m Hannah, I’m 14 years old, and I’m allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and legumes.

Last summer, I spent 3 weeks at an outdoor camp in Kenora. I had a great time and was constantly busy. Luckily, the camp was peanut- and tree nut-free, and no one was allowed to bring outside food to camp, so I could enjoy myself while feeling safe!

Even still, when I look back at that experience now, there are a few things that I wish I had done differently. The camp is located on an island in Lake of the Woods, so if I had an anaphylactic reaction, it would be a 15-minute boat ride for me to reach land. I realize now that I should have checked with my counselors, to see if they knew how to properly use my auto-injector. I was worried that they wouldn’t know how to administer it, because they were mainly in their teens and early twenties, and none of them had allergies. If they didn’t know how, I could have taught them! I also wish that I had told all the people in my cabin about my allergies, right off the bat, so they would know how serious they are.

The most exciting part of the camp was a 1 week overnight trip, when the girls from my cabin embarked on a canoe trip throughout the area of Lake of the Woods. We carried our food on our backs and paddled for hours per day. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done!

Teens sitting by lake

“…the girls in my cabin and I embarked on a one week canoe trip throughout the area of Lake of the Woods, carrying our food on our backs and paddling for hours per day…”

Before we left, we had to pack our food supplies. Cabins usually pack peanut butter, peas, and chickpeas, because they are easy to eat and filling. My cabin, of course, was not allowed to bring peanut butter, but they brought pea butter instead – which I am still allergic to, but not as severely.

Unfortunately, some of the girls in my cabin complained about not being able to bring peanut butter and made fun of my allergies. I became very upset and told them that I could die from eating just a small amount of peanut butter. I’m not sure if they really understood how dire my allergies could be.

Luckily, I was able to handle the situation and made sure that my meals did not contain chickpeas or peas. At lunch, I had crackers with jam, and no one used the same knife for pea butter as they did for any other condiments. It was still difficult to feel 100% comfortable, because I wondered what would happen if I had an anaphylactic reaction. At some times, we were canoeing in the middle of the lake, with no land in sight. How long would it take me to get to the main shore?

Fortunately, I didn’t have a reaction, and I’m proud that I was able to manage such a tricky situation. There were a few close calls – I stepped on a wasps’ nest and got stung twice. I wasn’t sure if I was allergic to wasp stings or not, since some people are. Turns out I’m not, which I learned the hard way!

If I could suggest anything to allergic youth heading off to camp this summer, it would be to make sure that your allergies can and will be accommodated. Camps that aren’t peanut- or tree nut-free can be risky for some allergic youth. However, don’t let your allergies hold you back! Most situations can be managed if you’re careful and outspoken enough to talk to your counselors and other campers about your allergies.

Camp will always be an experience that I’ll never forget – for all the right reasons!

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