Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kids with Food Allergies and Summer Camp

Heavy snow, rain and overall weather misery in many parts of the country aside, spring is nearly here, which means summer is on the way. It's definitely not too early to be thinking about summer activities -- like camp. But what if your child, like mine, has life-threatening allergies to nuts or other foods?

If some of you are skeptical of the summer camp experience for your severely allergic child, I know how you feel. I summed up our family's experience in this archived Allergic Living magazine article where I discuss the ups and downs of my daughter's week at Girl Scout camp (she was seven years old at the time). The bottom line: it was a big success in spite of a few scares -- all non-allergy related!

For any parent contemplating camp, food allergy awareness must come into play. Some parents don't want to deal with camp and it's your call to make. You know your child better than anyone and what they are capable of handling.

That said, if you can find a camp that accommodates allergies, consider giving it a try (once you've done all of your research and feel confident, of course). I remember how excited my daughter was to attend Girl Scout camp. She still talks about it! In recent years, she has served as a volunteer at our local library and she has been an advocate for the younger allergic kids she encounters. I'm sure the positive role models and teen counselors she met at Girl Scout camp served as inspiration.

That's why I was so excited to hear about Camp Wingate-Kirkland, a nut-free camp in Cape Cod and one of my current blog sponsors. I first learned of this camp a couple of years ago when I was on a panel discussion (via the parenting website The Motherhood) with Lori Sandler of Divvies. Our group included Sandy Rubenstein, one of the owners/directors of Camp Wingate*Kirkland.

The online panel discussion dealt with specific actions to take in order to ensure the safety of food-allergic kids during play dates, sleepovers and summer camp. You can see a write-up of that very helpful and informative discussion by clicking this link.

I received this message regarding the camp's allergy policies: "Camp Wingate*Kirkland is food allergy-friendly and peanut-free. The training and precautions made by the camp staff allow your child to be a camper, not “the camper with allergies.”  For more info, click the "Camp Wingate*Kirkland" image on the right sidebar of this blog. It will take you directly to their web site; you can find their specific allergy policies there, too. Thanks to the directors of this camp for caring about nut-allergic and food-allergic campers!

Important Note:

For your child's health and safety, always speak directly to any and all camp directors for specific information on food allergy policies and accommodations. Please do your own research as you are the best judge of your family's specific situation and needs.

FARE has compiled a list of camps that advertise themselves as allergy-friendly; you can find the list for 2013 by clicking this link. Remember, things can change so please do your own research.

Have you found any local camps that will accommodate your food-allergic camper? How did it go?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Nut-Free Valentine's Day! A Roundup of Nut-Free Treats, Helpful Links, Ideas and More!

Valentine's Day, the season of love is nearly here. And as those of us coping with food allergies know, it's also the season of potentially unsafe food.

That's why I'm offering this convenient roundup of posts and links that provide some wonderful nut-free alternatives.

Important to note: Seasonal or holiday candy may be made on different lines depending on the brand, and those manufacturing differences may result in a previously "safe" brand becoming "unsafe" due to cross-contact risk. Read the labels, always, every time to make sure your candy is OK to use!

Now onto the links! You will find recipes, treats ideas, non-food crafts (perfect for school) and more. If you are a Pinner, I highly recommend you check out my Nut-Free Valentine's Day Pinterest board. I've been collecting some really good pins from other sites as well as this one. Lots of fun and creative ideas there! The Pinterest link is listed below.

I am proud to say that three of my site sponsors offer nut-free treats. Nutphree's Cupcakes, Surf Sweets and Dean's Sweets are favorite sources of nut-free sweets and goodies for my family. (I've got many more included in the link/posts above). It's nice to be able to count on a nut-free facility -- which these three great companies consistently provide.

And don't forget to click the two Valentine's Day images on the right side bar of the site: the cupid and the box of heart-shaped chocolates. These two images will take you to posts that hook you up with nut-free treats online as well as those you find at the supermarket.

A new one I found this year: Willy Wonka brand Everlasting Gobstoppers in a new heart shape. These may contain allergens other than nuts, but check the label. No nut allergen warnings and I've called this company in the past--they will mark for cross-contact risk. Have any of you found some new nut-free treats at the store? Let us know.

Happy Valentine's Day to you and your sweeties!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Nut-Free Recipes and Tips for Super Bowl Sunday

My Mexican meatball soup...perfect for game day or any day.
Hi everyone, I realize that this is last minute, but I hope you'll still find use for these Super Bowl-centric recipes and party tips. In fact, a lot of these recipes would be good any weekend, so check them out! 

Since many of us attend parties over this football weekend, we have to find a way to safely deal with life-threatening food allergies. To help you navigate, I've also shared some party-going tips that have worked for me.

First off, I'm sharing two previous posts with crowd-pleasing recipes for any gathering or game day. Nut-Free Recipes for Super Bowl Sunday and a link to some yummy, creative recipes from the SunButter website, perfect for Super Bowl weekend. And check out this new one posted by SunButter: football shaped chocolate cookies.

For all of my readers who are also Pinners on Pinterest (and those of you who aren't I hope you'll check it out), I've got three links to two of my most popular Pinterest boards: Comfort Food Recipes,  Crock Pot and Nut-Free Recipes (Misc.). I've been collecting some really heart-warming and delicious recipes, both from my blog and other sources, that are either nut-free or easy to make that way. (And I give suggestions on how to do this right on the Pin.)

Partying with Food Allergies: 4 of my best tips:

1. Adopt an upbeat tone and be proactive. Simply saying something like: "Hey, thanks for inviting us to your party! We are very excited to attend. I just need to ask about the menu. My son has severe peanut allergies, so we're happy to bring our own food. We just wanted to know if there are any things we have to watch out for." There. Right away, you've taken the pressure off of the other person and opened the door to communication. In these cases, once I explain our situation, some people have even removed items from the menu. But if you don't communicate about allergies in advance and stay proactive, sometimes people feel guilty for having the allergen around the house and even resentful that you've put them in an uncomfortable position. That's not good from both your standpoint and theirs, as party hosts. Usually hosts want guests to feel comfortable so ask questions, make your concerns known in an friendly way and everybody wins. Or, at the very least, you know what you are dealing with.

2. Tailor your explanation to the person you are speaking with. For example, you will probably want to share every last medical detail of a recent allergic reaction with your child's grandparents because they are deeply invested in your child's health and because they are family members. However, if you're talking to an acquaintance about the neighborhood block party, for example, they probably don't want to hear all of that. So a simple: "My child is highly allergic to nuts and has experienced severe allergic reactions. Can we skip the peanut bags this year at the block party--all that dust and stuff blowing around can be hazardous to her health," will probably suffice. 

3. Keep it simple. I touched on this above, but if you veer off into the latest medical news on food allergies or have someone suck you into topics that aren't relevant to the matter at hand, i.e. keeping an allergic person reaction-free, you risk losing your message. It doesn't matter what the latest food allergy news is if all you're talking about is how to keep your child out of harm's way. I'm not saying to blow off someone who is just trying to make conversation, but if they want to get into a deep discussion about how your child got allergies, what you fed them as a baby, etc. you are going to get sidetracked. Try to shift them back to the matters at hand, e.g. "Can you make sure my little guy washes his hands before snack time after playing with shared toys? Thanks for your help."

4. Be prepared to alter your plans.  Some of us may have experienced the following: "I communicated my socks off in an appropriate way with my hosts, they told me not to worry, they had it covered and they STILL had bowls of peanuts all over the house." What do you do? Well, in this case, you are going to have to keep calm but be firm. You can say "I know we talked on the phone and you said you wouldn't serve peanuts. My little girl is too allergic to be around so many so would you mind removing them?" If they say no, you  can choose to leave but don't be tempted to get into a blowout argument at that time. If this is a close friend or family member, it's better to call them a few days later and talk it out.

Communicating effectively with others is always a challenge in our fast-paced, phone-texting, e-mailing society. So keep that in mind, keep it simple and then get out and enjoy the things you want to do.

Note to my readers: I've been keeping up with the blog as much as possible while I work on deadlines for different writing projects, so even though I try to update the blog once a week, I don't always succeed. :) However, The Nut-Free Mom blog has more than 630 posts! So please use the search bar in the upper left hand corner of this blog and use key words to find posts on a multitude of current "living with nut allergies" topics. 

You  can also find compassionate, concise information on parenting a child with nut allergies in my e-book, The New Nut-Free Mom, available on Amazon, Nook and downloadable to your iPad or computer. Click this link for information on how to buy, or if you have a Kindle, click the button on the right side bar of this blog.

Valentine's Day!

I'll be adding a Valentine's Day post soon, but in the meantime, click the Valentine images on the right sidebar to find online and supermarket resources of nut-free Valentine's Day goodness. Plus, I have a nut-free Valentine's Day Pinterest board with crafts, nut-free recipes and non-food treats.

Happy Game Day!