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Camping with Food Allergies Can Be Safe and Fun

June 2008

Carefree Camping With Food Allergies

Play it safe and prepare for a lifetime of lasting memories

By Beth Puliti

Reluctant to release your food-allergic child into the great outdoors? Don't be. Children are among those who can gain the most from nature—and children with food allergies are no exception.

camping with food allergic childrenTake your family camping this summer to enjoy the many entertaining and inexpensive benefits nature has to offer—and discover this food-allergy friendly activity for yourself.

Unlike traditional vacations that often require eating meals at restaurants, one of the most enticing aspects of camping for parents of food-allergic children is that it offers control over preparing and consuming food. Steven Place, a former Boy Scout with allergies to tree nuts, corn and cow's milk, has camped countless times and understands the importance and benefit of taking "safe" foods on the trail.

"Camping offers 99 percent control over activities and what foods your child will consume. You would never be able to control that on a vacation where you had to eat out every night," he said.

Many foods that you cook at home can be prepared at a campsite. To ensure safety, it's best to cook only safe foods for everyone in your party since it's harder to clean pots, pans and utensils thoroughly to prevent cross-contamination. You should also avoid cooking directly on the campsite's grill. It could have food residue from previous campers. Instead, consider cooking over a campfire or bring your own propane camping stove or burner.

food allergy cookingKFA member, Kathy Pryzwara, likes to use a Dutch oven (a cast iron pot with a snug lid) for cooking while camping. She recommends seasoning it before you use it, and lining it with aluminum foil for easy clean up. "I often cook in aluminum pie or cake pans that fit my oven," said Kathy. "You can make anything from potatoes to apple crisp. If you prepare things in foil dishes, you can use one oven to cook sequential parts of the meal—you just need to make sure you have enough coals to last. For instance, I've done ‘unscalloped potatoes' (potatoes, onions, capers, chicken broth) in a foil dish for dinner, then popped in an apple crisp for dessert to cook while we ate."

Packaged meals are another easy way to control your child's meal. Kathy recommends using double layers of heavy foil and grease to keep food from sticking. "Layer potatoes, veggies, meat and seasonings. Seal up in a pouch tightly and cook in or over the coals," she said. Kabobs also work well. For this, be sure to bring an old grill rack to set over the coals.

Don't forget dessert, Kathy added. Banana boats can easily become a family favorite. "Split a banana in the skin, but not all the way through. Stuff with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips. Wrap in foil and bake in hot coals for 20 minutes until everything is soft and melted," explained Kathy.

Once you've planned what safe foods to take on your camping trip, don't forget to secure them at night or when leaving the camp site. You don't want to feed the wildlife with your child's safe food.

Despite your best preventative efforts, your child may still come into contact with food that causes an allergic reaction. So, along with safe food, take along an emergency kit chockfull of life-saving medications and your written emergency action plan, even if you never leave your child's side. Don't forget to check expiration dates as well, and protect your epinephrine autoinjectors (EpiPen® or Twinject®) from extreme temperatures.

As an extra precaution, research cell phone coverage at your destination before you leave. Many remote areas don't have coverage. If you are visiting a national park, contact the park ranger for emergency procedures in the event of a reaction, and find out where the nearest medical facility is located.

The unpredictable nature of allergic reactions can create stress when camping. But if you are well-prepared and play it safe, you're guaranteed to take home lots of lasting memories.

Camping is food allergy friendlyWilderness
Words of Wisdom:
Abide by these rules to ensure your next camping trip is worry free—and worth it!
  1. Pack safe foods. Campsite cooking and cleaning can be challenging and messy. Use only safe foods so everyone can enjoy meals at ease.
  2. Bring life-saving medication and a written emergency action plan. Written directions will instruct emergency personnel how to properly treat your child if they experience an allergic reaction outside of your care.
  3. Keep epinephrine autoinjectors away from extreme temperatures. They should be stored at room temperature and kept away from excessive heat (such as a glove compartment) or cold.
  4. Research cell phone coverage. Cell phones may not work in some wilderness areas, regardless of your service. Ask a park ranger for details.
  5. Find the nearest medical facility. In case of an emergency, it is imperative to know the closest medical center equipped to treat your food-allergic child.

Beth Puliti is a professional writer for a national healthcare trade magazine.

Approved by KFA Medical Advisory Team June 2008

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Page last updated 7/29/2012

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