Ellie Lux - School Trip
Ellie Lux - The School Trip
Author of the Allergy-Free Family Family Cook Book and the Allergy-Free Baby & Toddler Cook Book, Ellie Lux writes on the worry a parent faces when sending their child on a school trip.
It is our job as parents to prepare our children to go out into the world on their own. We try to do this by giving them more and more independence as they get older. This process is hard for any parent even if the children skip away without a backward glance.
It is extra challenging if you have a child with life-threatening food allergies. You have to put your trust in other people – teachers, club organisers, other parents and, most importantly, in your child.
My eight year old daughter recently went on an overnight trip with school and it was a big step for our family. She is allergic to dairy, eggs, sesame and peanuts and is at significant risk of anaphylaxis – a potentially fatal reaction. We are very keen to ensure that Izzy joins in with as much as possible at school.
However, going away for the night, eating away from home or school was quite daunting for us as parents. I know that teachers, medical and canteen staff at Izzy’s school fully understand what Izzy can and can’t have, the consequences if she is accidentally exposed to an allergen and what to do.
On hearing about the trip my initial thought was that perhaps I could go too but both my daughter and husband thought that a ridiculous suggestion so I did what allergy parents have to do all the time – I made an appointment to talk to the teacher.
Communication with and trust in those people looking after our children are so important. I am very lucky that our school takes food allergy seriously and is very careful. Izzy’s teacher spoke to the catering manager at the Youth Hostel where Izzy would be staying and checked all the menu choices, then went through all the options with my daughter to see what she might like and what she thought she’d be able to have.
It’s important to involve your children in these decisions so they can start becoming responsible for their own allergies and food choices. The teacher called the Youth Hostel again, checked all the ingredients in Izzy’s food choices, then asked about cross contamination (about which she’s now well versed).
She had been thorough and relayed everything to me and then suggested I might also like to speak to the Youth Hostel directly to double check everything. Being able to check things and satisfy yourself that food allergy is understood and being taken seriously is so helpful when you are handing your child into someone else’s care.
Having quizzed the poor manager a second time on the food front (and having given Izzy instructions to triple check everything when she arrived as well), we focused on medication. Luckily Izzy already carries all her emergency medication (Epipens, ventolin inhaler and antihistamine) in a distinctive backpack wherever she goes at school so it was easy to ensure this happened on the trip as well. It was then a case of handing over her regular medications – her steroid inhalers, steroid nasal spray and antihistamine tablets – that she takes at home every morning before going to school.
Izzy had a wonderful time on the trip – they built shelters, fired homemade rockets, went on long walks, toasted marshmallows around a camp fire (and yes, all ingredients had been checked in advance) and slept in dorms with their friends.
It is a tricky balance giving our allergic children freedom and independence without risking their safety. They will leave home eventually and we will have to trust them and believe they can take responsibility for their own safety. This felt like a first small step towards that.
I’m very pleased she didn’t have to miss out and she didn’t have to take her mother with her!
Ellie Lux is co-author of The Allergy-Free Baby & Toddler Cookbook and The Allergy-Free Family Cookbook. Each book is packed full of practical advice as well as over 100 allergen-free recipes.