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I am looking for suggestions for someone who may have encountered this before.  My son is a 3rd year, although he took a year off last year.  Anyway, he has very bad seasonal allergies, which we can deal with, but he is super sensitive to the campfire smoke.  He is very excited about Scouts now and wants to finish his Eagle, but needs 11 more nights of camping.  In the fall, he was a bonfire party on a Saturday and was so sick that he was out of school until Thursday.  He went to a camp out this weekend, and wasn't too bad when I picked him up in the late morning, but went rapidly downhill with a headache, sinus congestion, and fever over 100F.  Needless to say, he is home today.  I do not think the doctors believe me when I tell them this happens instantly...but it does.  Anyway, I was wondering if anyone has encountered a scout like this?  I am thinking he needs to avoid any campouts when it is cold so he can stay away from the fire.  Any other suggestions?  Thanks so much.

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I have pretty bad year round allergies - and I even work at a summer camp during the summer.

My best friend was Allegra. It’s honestly probably the way I could’ve survived. 

Does your son get allergy shots (I do), or take OTC medicine to help with symptoms?

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Sounds dorky, but would a dust mask help filter out the particulates in campfire smoke that make him ill? 

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Sounds like my son.  He had similar symptoms after many campouts.  One year after summer camp we had to take him to the emergency room as it triggered an asthma attack.

Over time we learned to be diligent  with allergy medications before and during campouts.  We had prescription medications.  We learned to keep a distance to the fire and not to be downwind of the fire.  Scouts like to be as close to a fire as possible so this is indeed a learning process.

As far as cold weather camping if you dress properly you don't need to be near a fire.  In fact a fire can be detrimental as it can easily increase perspiration (especially those scouts who like to be as close as possible).  Dryness is a major factor in staying warm.

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2 hours ago, ItsBrian said:

I have pretty bad year round allergies - and I even work at a summer camp during the summer.

My best friend was Allegra. It’s honestly probably the way I could’ve survived. 

Does your son get allergy shots (I do), or take OTC medicine to help with symptoms?

He got allergy shots for 5 years and they really helped.  He rarely gets season allergies symptoms now -- maybe a day or two in the spring and again in the fall.  We have him use Flonase most of the year and Xyzal during peak times.

 

 

1 hour ago, Sentinel947 said:

Sounds dorky, but would a dust mask help filter out the particulates in campfire smoke that make him ill? 

Hmmm.  That might help, but he would probably not want to stand out like that. 

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1 hour ago, NealOnWheels said:

Sounds like my son.  He had similar symptoms after many campouts.  One year after summer camp we had to take him to the emergency room as it triggered an asthma attack.

Over time we learned to be diligent  with allergy medications before and during campouts.  We had prescription medications.  We learned to keep a distance to the fire and not to be downwind of the fire.  Scouts like to be as close to a fire as possible so this is indeed a learning process.

As far as cold weather camping if you dress properly you don't need to be near a fire.  In fact a fire can be detrimental as it can easily increase perspiration (especially those scouts who like to be as close as possible).  Dryness is a major factor in staying warm.

Wow!  Thankfully he doesn't have asthma.  That is really scary. 

It was sunny and in the 50s this weekend -- but went down to freezing overnight, so I am guessing he was near it in the evening.  He said he tried to stay away and stay upwind, but it got realy smoky once because someone put a green log on it.  They were cooking over a camp stove.

He should have been well dressed enough to not really need to be near it.  I don't think he changed clothes all weekend.  He had on his class As with a shirt underneath, plus he had a hoodie he wore a lot.  And he had a winter coat and hat for evening.  Now, whether he wore them or not.......that I cannot attest to......

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I have fairly bad asthma and so stay pretty far back and always up wind from camp fires.  He really just needs to learn to do that.  As several folks have said fires aren't really for warmth they're mostly for socializing.  If you're dressed/equipped properly, getting close to the fire just causes you to either over heat or open your jacket.

ETA, I also have found for kids with allergies that they may be OK under normal, at-home conditions where most of the air is filtered and or conditioned, but they have problems when they're outside for 48 hours straight like we are on campouts.  Ramp up the OTC allergy meds: Zyrtec, Allegra, Claritin, etc. several days before a campout and keep them going a few days afterwards

Edited by T2Eagle

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Not doubting you, he's your kid.

But in my experience as a severe allergy sufferer for decades and the mom of an Eagle Scout with asthma I have never seen an allergy attack cause a fever. Not even a low grade fever. After 14 years of scouting what I have seen is a kid(s) that may have seemed fine on Friday develop a cold/flu while at camp over the weekend and end up sick by Sunday afternoon/evening. I had one mom accuse the troop of poor sanitation because her kid got sick after every campout. It wasn't until she keep her scout home from  a campout, so he couldn't have caught it from camp, and he got sick that weekend just like 3 others in the troop on the campout. Turns out it was a bug they picked up at school and it manifested over the weekend. 

Allergies can lower resistance and make 'catching something' easier, especially if the kid is either blowing or wiping their nose a lot or if they are coughing and sneezing and covering their mouth as they should be. This can happen anywhere, home, school or on a campout. The other things that can happen on a campout that can lower resistance to bugs include: not dressing appropriately for the weather; not changing clothes regularly, although this causes more in the way of rashes; poor eating habits/diet; and finally some level of sleep deprivation.  If your scout isn't changing his clothes regularly at camp then any smoke particles and other allergens (pollen, dust,etc) are on/in his clothes and he's breathing them in even when he's in his sleeping bag at night. If his sleeping bag isn't being aired out and maybe washed per manufacturer's instructions between campouts then he is sleeping in accumulated 'yuck'!

My recommendations: follow above advice; stress the importance of changing clothes regularly at camp; have a set of fresh PJs that never went outside near the fire for each night of camp, store them in a Ziploc bag if needed to keep them clean and separate from 'contaminated' clothing; fresh pillow cases every night of camp stored in Ziplocs if needed; finally air out or clean sleeping bag between trips. These steps should reduce his exposure to allergens/smoke while he sleeps.  It may add slightly to his luggage for camp but as long as he isn't backpacking he should be okay. It's worth a try for a couple of trips. The fresh PJs and pillow cases (every couple of days for summer camp) help me survive summer camps and peak pollen season.

Hope it helps and you can keep him camping.

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6 hours ago, ShutterbugMom said:

He should have been well dressed enough to not really need to be near it.  I don't think he changed clothes all weekend.  He had on his class As with a shirt underneath, plus he had a hoodie he wore a lot.  And he had a winter coat and hat for evening.  Now, whether he wore them or not.......that I cannot attest to......

  

  

To stay warm it is important to change into dry clothing periodically.  Scouts often don't realize their clothes have dampness from perspiration even if it is cold.  Also avoid cottons as they lose insulating ability more so than wool or various synthetics.  A hat helps a lot.

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have your son go for detailed allergy test,

he might be allergic to Pine or some other species common around there,

pine and such are not part of routine allergy test, and has to be specifically requested

allergy to pine while rare can cause fevers,

 

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19 hours ago, ShutterbugMom said:

I am looking for suggestions for someone who may have encountered this before.  My son is a 3rd year, although he took a year off last year.  Anyway, he has very bad seasonal allergies, which we can deal with, but he is super sensitive to the campfire smoke.  He is very excited about Scouts now and wants to finish his Eagle, but needs 11 more nights of camping.  In the fall, he was a bonfire party on a Saturday and was so sick that he was out of school until Thursday.  He went to a camp out this weekend, and wasn't too bad when I picked him up in the late morning, but went rapidly downhill with a headache, sinus congestion, and fever over 100F.  Needless to say, he is home today.  I do not think the doctors believe me when I tell them this happens instantly...but it does.  Anyway, I was wondering if anyone has encountered a scout like this?  I am thinking he needs to avoid any campouts when it is cold so he can stay away from the fire.  Any other suggestions?  Thanks so much.

Has he tried Benadryl before he goes to bed at night? That and using a washcloth to wash any smoke that may get on his face.  Also, try Flonase, which I've found works well and was recommended by my doctor.

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22 hours ago, bsaggcmom said:

But in my experience as a severe allergy sufferer for decades and the mom of an Eagle Scout with asthma I have never seen an allergy attack cause a fever. Not even a low grade fever.

My husband routinely gets into the trap of letting his allergies get out of control and developing sinus infections as a result, leasing to fevers. So the cause may be slightly indirect, but allergies can still be the primary cause of something that can lead to a fever. 

I have a slightly different take on the potential solution, having gone through several years with my kids in an entire Troop full of allergies. Not specifically the camp fire allergies, but the need to adapt the way kids camp due to the medical needs of the members. In our case, we had one whole patrol give up on the idea of cooking as a patrol. Yes, it meant they lost out on certain valuable leadership skills and weren't as practiced at one of the things they had to do for Campboree, but with two Celiac kids in the troop, two different dairy allergic kids, one allergic to beef, and I forget what all else, we put all those kids in the same patrol and they all cooked for themselves on personal backpacking stoves. 

It also reminds me of the time one of the kids in my son's Webelos den decided he was determined he was going to earn EVERY PIN - but was completely phobic of water and couldn't swim at all. The entire den rallied around him and worked over several sessions with gentle guidance from the adults as to how not to make it worse to help the one kid get over his fear so he could learn to swim well enough earn his swimming pin. After several gentle acclimation efforts, we rented out a small swimming pool for a "swimming pin" activity so nobody but the den and leaders would be there and they all cheered him on while he ran through the requirements (and everyone else breezed through them too). It wasn't necessary for this kid to earn this one last pin, but it was this Scout's goal and his friends supported him in it. In my book this was one of the most successful examples of the values we are trying to teach in Scouts. 

What I'm getting at is that it's entirely possible to camp without a campfire at all. Perhaps your PLC can be tasked with the job of "how do we support this Scout in getting at least his 11 nights of camping without making himself sick?" That could look like a number of different things, which might be "no camp fire at all" or "choose a camping spot that can be further away from the fire pit" or something else entirely, and it should be up to the boys to figure out how to make it happen - but it should happen. 

As a side note, if you haven't taken your son to an allergist, I would recommend that. If you've already done that, you're ahead of me. :) 

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If your troop is car camping, you could invest in a propane campfire.

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Just came upon this thread.  Allergies and asthma are very personal and troublesome.  Medical science can help the  sufferer only so much. 

When I was very young, (1950's) my folks moved us into a new old house.  Presto ! we could now have a pet dog or cat !  Presto, when the puppy arrived,  I couldn't breath.  Several doctors and tests later, I was shown to be allergic (to one degree or another) to ANYTHING that had feathers, fur (hair!)  or pollen.  I underwent a desensitasation  regimen of shots for three years. I went on the Cub Scout hay ride in the cab of the truck.  This did help lead my mom to quit smoking (she had a two pack a day habit) as I was allergic to that too.  When the cat (from my grandmother's dirt basement, it had never seen a grass lawn)  arrived, I was able to pet it and we  got along fine so long as it lived outside. 

Wood smoke? yep, some affect.   By the time I became a Scout,  I was able to sit around the campfire and cook and tell jokes with the best of the kids.  Dust mask is recommended. It will help.  

I am convinced there is some psychosomatic effect, but this can never be proven.  Kids will, however , react to what mom/dad react to.  If mom/dad are calm, Scout will be calmer, that sort of thing. 

When loving wife asked for a "kitty", I reminded her of my allergies and insisted that the house would need to be vacuumed regularly and well.  It helps, but I was always glad to go to work in the mornings.   Yes, clean clothing,  wash face (and for me, beard !) to be rid of dust and pollen and dander.   I am much better now  than when a child, but the allergies are still there to some degree.  Will your Scout "grow out of it?"   Maybe.  But not 100%.  A complete allergen testing is to my mind recommended. 

Your Scout will none the less, find his way in Scouting, I have no doubt.   See you on the trail.

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If I were allergic to everything outdoors and all the fun activities that are the heart and soul of scouting, then I would NOT join scouting. 

Scouting is an outdoor program. Scouting helps kids grow and mature by placing them in normal outdoor situations and allowing them to find solutions to challenges. A scouting program that removes challenges and that removes every risk is a worthless program that does nothing to foster personal growth.

A scout who can't or won't engage in the program (or a parent who irresponsibly insists on "adapting" the program) just ruins the experience for everyone who DOES want legitimate outdoor experiences and challenges. 

Scouting is what it is, and let's face it, some kids just are NOT cut out to be scouts. 

A scout is courteous. That also means he (or his helicopter parents) aren't a PITA for everyone else in the troop.

Scouting is what it is. Some parents also aren't cut out to be good scouters....

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