Before I had kids, my favorite trail snack was Good Old Raisins and Peanuts (GORP). Now that my son has been diagnosed with multiple food allergies, we have had to get more creative on our hikes. Here are a few tips to help families with and without food allergies keep everyone safe on the trail.
Don’t Feed the Wild Animals, I mean, Kids
The best way to keep allergy kids safe on the trail is to never share food without the parent’s permission. While we might teach our kids, “sharing is caring!” when it comes to food, NOT sharing is caring. Now that my son is old enough, I have taught him to refuse any food that doesn’t come from mom or dad, but I still worry someone will hand him a cracker when I’m not watching. Teaching generous little ones not to share their snacks is a good habit to get into from the beginning.
Consider the Snacks you Bring
Because food allergies can be so varied, it can be difficult to pack a snack that is allergy free for all of your trail mates. It is good, however, to keep in mind some snacks leave residues on hands that can cause problems if another child comes into contact with them. If you pack a sticky snack like peanut butter, for instance, make sure you wash your child’s hands (with water or wipes, not hand sanitizer) before they head off to play.
If you are bringing snacks to share, please let others know before the hike in the calendar description and on Facebook. Whenever we head to a special event like a birthday party, I always like to pack my son an allergy friendly version of the treat so he doesn’t feel left out and isn’t tempted to take a bite when I’m not looking! A heads up is always appreciated.
Make an Announcement in the Welcome Circle
If one of your children has an allergy, consider announcing it in the welcome circle to remind other hikers not to share their food with him or her. You can also share on Facebook before the hike. When families don’t deal with allergies on a daily basis, precautions can slip to the back of their minds. A short announcement can help everyone stay aware.
Lead an Allergy Friendly Hike
Some members choose to make the hikes they are hosting nut (or dairy or egg!) free. Since HiB is committed to help all families get outdoors, this can be a great option for families who need a little extra help. Looking for snack ideas to bring on one of these hikes? Check out this blog post!
When I hike with my son, I always carry his epi-pen and Benadryl, even if it seems less likely to run into nuts in the backwoods than it does in a restaurant. I also carry my cellphone and stay in cell range at all times. Keeping these on me instead of in the car allows us to be prepared at all times.
Following a few simple precautions can help all families get out and safely explore nature together!
Photo Credits: Tais Kulish
Jackie is a branch ambassador for Helena, MT. She started the branch in an attempt to keep up with her oldest boy’s boundless energy. Jackie lives in Helena with her two boys, Gene (2.5), Charlie (1) and her husband, John. She writes more about family and nature at www.ananchoredhope.com.