SZ Connect: Helping Community Singles Split the Sea

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By: Frieda Schweky

It’s that time of year when school is coming to an end and summer is about to begin. With that, a relaxed and refreshed sensation comes upon us. But it’s important to remember to remain organized and focused when it comes to your child’s allergies. The Nut Job Mom, Paulette Cohen, has yet again offered to share her helpful tips to ensure that safety comes first! A great way to stay organized is to prepare yourself for your summer living arrangements, camp, and parties.

Summer Living Arrangements

Sharing a house with friends or extended family can be stressful, even without having someone with a food allergy. The first thing to do is to make sure you have EpiPens and Benadryl that are not expired. These need to be on you, and in the house in a designated spot that everyone knows about. Paulette loves to make charts to put on the fridge, to remind everyone what the protocol is in the event of, Gd forbid, an allergic reaction. However, prevention is always your best bet.

A great way of avoiding accidental exposure is to take control of food shopping. Whether you are sharing a house with family or friends, it’s a great idea to go to the supermarket together to show them what staple snacks and food options are safe for your child. Don’t hesitate to teach someone what to look out for in ingredients, even if they don’t have a child with food allergies. Knowledge is power, and you never know if they will need to know this information in the future. Menu planning at the beginning of the week can also help things
run smoothly.

Communication is Key

Ultimately, everyone in that house needs to be aware of the allergy, and what is not safe to bring into the house. One of the biggest struggles people share with Paulette is family issues regarding food allergies.Unfortunately, some families have members who are not understanding, or have a rigid attitude and don’t take food allergies seriously. Paulette tries to work with parents on how to properly communicate with family members and friends. It’s critical to explain the risks and to help them understand what you’re going through. After doing this for many years, Paulette has found that one needs to be totally transparent with people about what you are comfortable with and what you are not okay with. There are ways to be assertive and respectful at the same time. That type of communication can help you with deal with any type of person and any type of scenario.

Summer Camp

Another hurdle to jump over is sending your food-allergic child to camp. Paulette has said she can’t stress enough the importance of sending a child with food allergies to a camp that always has a nurse on staff. There must be communication between you, the camp director, and the nurseprior to camp starting. You will need to discuss a food allergy action plan in case your child, Gd forbid, has an allergic reaction. Another very important thing is to make sure the bus is safe for your child. Many times the camp is strict, but the kids bring allergic things onto the bus. I urge every parent readingthis to take this seriously and double check what your children are bringing on the bus and to camp. Even if your child has been blessed to be allergy free, we have a community responsibility to look out for all our children.

It’s also a good idea to discuss if there is a specific counselor that would be a good fit for taking on the responsibility of having a child with food allergies in their group. You and the counselors should exchange numbers, in case they have any questions. Make sure the nurse trainsthem in how to use an EpiPen and insures that they also know what to look out for in an allergic reaction. Tell the counselors that if they are ever unsure of something, to take your child directly to the nurse. It is better to be safe than sorry.

If you are going to be a counselor this summer to a food-allergic child, it is important to make sure you do not single them out or make them feel different. These kids already know and feel they are different. The last thing they want is to bring more attention to their allergy in front of their friends. The goal should be to treat them like the other kids but to keep an extra eye out during any kind of food activity. You having a positive attitude about their allergies will definitely help their confidence in the long run. The child must understand that their allergies do not define who they are. Your role is especially important since these kids always look up to counselors because they’re older. Paulette considers herself lucky to have had wonderful experienceswith the camps in our community.

Choosing the Right Camp

It can be hard when first trying to figure out which camp is the right fit for your child, but luckily there are many camps that are
allergy-friendly. I know personally that the camp directors inour community want nothing more than for our children to have an amazing and safe summer. If there is proper communication, trust, comfort, and understanding on both parts, then that camp is the one for you. You should go over the lunch and snack menu with the camp director beforehand to make sure everything is safe for your child. Working together will not only keep your child safe, but will help you have an enjoyable summer. If your child is going on a trip or an overnight,
plan with the camp and decideif you are comfortable sending your child along. Everyone’s comfort level is different based on their personal experiences they’ve gone through and that’s ok. Don’t feel pressure! Do what makes you and your child comfortable!

Summer Parties

Summer is a very party-oriented season. With nice weather, everyone is eager to make birthday parties, pool parties, BBQs, etc. Paulette recommends calling the host and going over the menu and snack list. If the host wants to serve pretzels, for example, give her the name of a brand that’s a safe option. There are plenty of people in the community, whom you could recommend, that make birthday cakes, cupcakes, cookies, that are allergy-friendly. You cannot demand that a host provide allergy friendly options. But you cancertainly share that you would feel more comfortable sending your child if there are safe options for him or her. Another option you can try is to send your child with their own snack. Paulette’s daughter likes doing this because she feels more comfortable, and Paulette is all about validating her daughter’s feelings. Depending on your child’s age, they can either carry their own Benadryl and EpiPens in a bag, or if they are younger, give the bag to the host. Explain to the host what to look out for and how to use the EpiPen and how much Benadryl to administer if needed. One should make it a point to show your child who the host is, and introduce them. Explain to your child that he or she cannot eat anything without running it by the host and double checking. This isn’t an issue if you’ve already gone over everything beforehand with the host and have double checked when you walk your child into the party.

There are going to be times when you or your child will not comfortable attending something. That is 100% okay! Trust your judgment as a parent. If something seems off or you’re not feeling comfortable, then go for ice cream or sorbet, or do something fun with your child so they don’t feel like they’re missing out. Always put your child’s feelings first! This will help you in the long run to have a strong bond with them. All in all, the summer is a happy and fun time, and although we should focus on safety, of course, don’t forget to take advantage and enjoy the time with your children.