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How to deal with nut allergies & parent

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I am now SM for a troop of about 70 scouts. We have an older scout with a peanut alergy that has not ever posed an issue (that I am aware of). We have a new scout that is joining soon and I am starting to be confronted with more questions on this ussue. Word from the committee is that I am going to be asked to make this a "nut-free" troop. I am really not sure how I should respond to this. I am weighing the pros-vs-cons of my possible reactions.


Option 1- BAN ALL NUTS:....

Can I even enforce this realistically? My first reaction is that I don't want to do that. I like my occasional PBJ sanwiches as much as the next guy. Also, we promote trail mix on many of our outings. I also don't want to take responsibility for a 'guaranty' that no scout will smuggle a snickers in is day pack. Then, if a problem occurs, It will be my fault.. (right?)

But.... I really don't see that many nuts being used on the typical patrol menu anyway. Would it really be that big of a deal?


Option #2: No change to current situation: The existing patrol with the older allergic scout is coached to be carefull and AVOID peanuts when planning patrol menus. Resposibility remains with the scout to scrutinize what he eats.


Option #3: Publically discourage nuts, but not ban them. You could mandate that all nutty products need to be stored in a marked container for safety. You could also have the scout bring his own pre-packaged meals to avoid the issue. This would detract from the patrol method, however.


Our council summer camp always has a PBJ option set out during meals for picky eaters (like me). I need to get a bit more educated on the subject. I don't our new scout to not feel welcome, but I also don't want to make things uncomfortabe for the other 69 scouts if it is not necessary.





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A lot depends on just how allergic this scout is.


There are some people who can have an allergic reaction (even life threatening) from the merest hint of peanut oil. This can be as little as someone smearing a bit on a picnic table after eating a PBJ sandwich and then wiping it up!


While your older scout might have a very slight reaction, this new boy could be extremely allergic.


Find out what you are dealing with first.

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In Boy Scouts, we want a boy-run troop where the boys take on this responsibility. You want Option #2.


When a patrol is meal planning, the question should be asked upfront "Do we have any diet restrictions?" - be they allergy, religious, medical, or "I just won't eat broccoli".


Note my son has a nut allergy and carries an epipen just in case. So far, he has three incidents with the troop - all due to adult supplied food - brownies, cookies, and moose-something ice cream, i.e. "snacks I made for the boys...oh I didn't know". Yeah, real fun going to the ER.


At the Cub Scouts, this is an adult responsibility, but now at Boy Scouts, I have told my son that he has to take responsibility for himself and his patrol. He should be asking questions and checking the ingredients. "You mean I can't trust adults to do this?" Wow, talking about the facts of life already.


As a troop, get trained in first aid response for allergic reactions in particular anaphylatic shock. Consider carrying epi-pens and Benadryl (antihistamine) in first aid kit. And of course, you should have current Class 3 medical forms for all scouts.


Nuts and "traces of nuts" are in just about everything. On a Maine trip, we found out the hard-way that hot dogs are commonly grilled in peanut oil. No warning sign and I didn't "think" to ask. Yeah you can't trust adults.


For summer camp, inquire ahead of time if there is a nut-free table(s) in the mess hall. At summer camp, my son eats at the other end of the hall while I enjoy my only PB&J of the year.


Be aware there are other food allergies, I had one scout who was allergic to watermelon!


I would add to the Scout Law, that a Scout is "observant" or "watchful", and follow the Scout Motto "Be Prepared".


Hope this helps.



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Yah, CaveEagle, this can be a real challenge, eh? Definitely find out what level of allergy you're dealin' with.


I've seen several troops that were successful creating a "nut free patrol", where just the one patrol kept their cooking gear and menus free from nuts (though some of the lads in the patrol would occasionally "borrow" from a neighboring patrol for a personal snack). And naturally, the boys in the patrol all received special training on how to assist any lad with an epi pen and all the follow-up care. My experience has been that a lot of these kids are very sensitive to the nut oils, so they have an almost instinctive sense of foods to avoid.


That having been said, this is a scary illness for parents, eh? Somebody screws up, your kid could die. I reckon your hardest job will be convincing the parents to trust other kids/PLs, or indeed to trust anything at all beyond a total nut ban. Be sure to make use of the parent of the older boy with the nut allergy as an ally in that conversation.



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The problem with allergies is that the response is not always predictable nor linear. Today you might get hives and an itchy throat. The next exposure could result in a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction where the throat totally closes and he goes into cardiac arrest. Someone with such allergies should have this thoroughly documented on their medical forms. An Epi-pen is essential...which the Scout keeps on his person and a backup with the SM. BTW, Epi-pens are Rx only and not something you can buy at Walgreens to keep in the troop first aid kit. My wife, a school nurse, recently used one on a student for which it was not prescribed (the parent never found the time to bring one in for their kid). The Dr at the ER called her to say she had saved his life with her quick reaction, but nonetheless, she put her nursing license in jeopardy by doing so. She said she'd rather take her chances with a lawsuit than stand there and watch the kid die. EMS took over 20 minutes to respond, and by the time they got there, the kid was bouncing off the walls...but alive.


As Beavah said, this must be scary for parents...but even more scary for the average Scouter who must live in fear that someone will screw up and feed the kid the wrong thing. My son's GF recently had a bad reaction after eating at Chik-fil-a. Seems the chicken is fried in peanut oil. No warnings, no nothing. So the answer is not as simple as saying "no nuts"...all kinds of foods can contain nuts or nut products such as oils, and it won't be clear to a 12 year old which ones are "safe". Have a frank discussion with the parents and make it clear the limits of your control and responsibility. It will be up to them to consult with their Doctor if the Scouting environment is too risky for their son's individual condition.(This message has been edited by scoutldr)

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We just gained a scout who has severe allergies to all sorts of things (not nuts as far as I'm aware though, but milk, flour, and eggs among others). To make matters more interesting, the things he is allowed to eat, he does not know how to cook. We have already had several conversations with his mom and expect to have more so that we better understand his needs. I anticipate that one result is going to be that his patrol will learn to cook and eat a lot of items that are not commercially made. Pop tarts for breakfast and ramen noodles for dinner won't be an issue for them at least! But I also suspect that early on, his parent is probably going to want to attend camp outs and also that the parent may be helping to provide appropriate food choices until both we, and the family, have a higher comfort level with knowing what's ok and what's not. I guess I'm ok with that - if it were my 10-11 year old, I might not be willing to trust their life to the careful thought and attention to detail of a bunch of other 10-11 year olds either.



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At what point do we have to draw the line and say we are sorry but the troop is not able to certify that the food served can be maintained allergen free. If an allergy is so severe that any contact is life threatening: for example the nut free patrol running out of cooking oil to dress their dutch oven unknowingly borrows peanut oil from patrol B or Cross contamination occurs at a washing station. Like most troops in this area we have a single wash station that all the patrols use in turn. Maybe the youth that are that allergic should be permitted to bring their own food and allowed to use their own mess kit to prepare same which they will have total control over its cleaning as well. I understand the importance of patrols eating and cooking together what I am curious about is where the safety issue line needs to be drawn.

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I feel humbled RememberShiff. What a response. Big thumbs up from here.


That is the opposite to what we do at work. I work at a school camp site. We have many schools use us and we do expeditions up to 12 days long. Lots of on base stuff too. But out in teh National Park the helicopter is alomost gaunteed NOT to come. Rainforest, wind etc.


So one epipen will not do. The benefit may only last 15-30 minutes. Two epipens will not do. Definitive medical help may need to walk in some distance and they have been known to get lost too! It might take some hours for the antihistamines and cordizone to kick in - add up the 15 minute epipens!


So we have done training for using needles and we carry six shots of adrenalin. A Dr has written the protocol and trained us. We have all got 5-7 day wilderness/remote area first aid under our belts too. Parents sign our med form which authorises us to op within the bounds of our training and we are trained to administer adrenalin to anyone showing the symptoms of severe reaction. The good thing is that even if we get all mixed up and give all three drugs at once we will not kill anyone - they may not be happy if we misdiagnose - but they will be alive regardless.


Incidentally a shot of adrenalin costs about $2-50 while an epipen costs upwards of $60. Thats in Australia.


And we are considering becoming nut free entirely - which will break my PB heart. But it seems that most school have the anaphalactic aboard. And they are not Scouts RememberShiff, so they don't have the self managament or self governance skills to be responsible.


What should you do? Risk assess the Scouts condition, your ability to control, your accesss to med help and add a pinch of salt.


Even if the Scouts parents will take a risk 'so he can live a real life' I would take the time to imagine what sort of death it would be if all goes wrong and how a Patrol in a remote area may feel watching and listening to him die. That's our worst case. But if you operate near med help and have epipens then the risk is pretty minor.


If he wants a high adventure - get some people trained. It doesn't cost much - a local GP can do it for you. I'll even send our protocol for them to use as a model.

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Went to a baseball game with a friend family. Their boy, "Danny" and my son (both about seven)were great friends back then. "Danny" loved bball. We knew of his allergy and sat way back and avoided the "getcher peanuts here" vendors. Wow! a foul came right to us! Hit the floor, rolled in some peanut shell debris, Danny ran and picked it up and almost immediately started wheezing. We were educated real quick.

I had a good friend back in neanderthal Scout days. He had a milk allergy, it was not life threatening, but we drank alot of Tang on camp trips.


Treat it seriously as per the previous posts. Educate the other boys AND the parents.

And politely confront the idiot parents that insist that "oh, a little won't matter".

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As a Scouter with an allergy - cat dander.


I think the responsibility has to ride with the person who has the allergy. I will let you know why I'm not coming into your home if you have felines kept in the house though - And if I pre-load with an antihistamine and upon returning home immediately do a load of laundry and take a shower I can usually spend an evening visiting. But, If I were to visit you without finding out whether or not you kept cats wouldn't it be my fault if I had a reaction, there's no way you could know.


Others should know why you don't eat certain foods and why the ingredient list needs to be posted for each item prepared at or brought along on campouts but it is the Scout/Scouters responsibility to avoid those ingredients they react to.


On that note, I have a Scout who is allergic to dairy products - and insists on eating them, sneaks them when ever possible. The issue is raised with his parents when it happens and fortunately it results in intestinal discomfort rather than anaphylaxis. But is an example of why the responsibility rests with the Scout/Scouter rather than with the Adult Leadership to prevent exposure. The only way I could control this Scouts intake would be to treat him like a Cub - which is what we are trying to get away from.


On the other hand, we don't have any Troop epi-pens/adrenaline and I am now going to raise the issue with the CC.

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Years ago when I was working at a (non-scout) summer camp, we had a boy get stung by a bee for the first time in his life. In less than a minute he went into shock, throat swelled shut, and he very nearly died. I will never, ever forget that experience. I don't think we had epi pens back then and anyway, nobody knew he was allergic until it happened, including his parents.


So my response is most likely colored by that experience, which was frightening to say the least for all concerned. But I do not think, as either a leader or a parent, that I would be willing to say that the responsibility lies solely in the hands of the child to avoid exposure to items that can be almost immediately lethal in some cases, and to which accidental exposure is a likely occurrence if the child or his patrol mates are not highly vigilant. I just know that I never want to be faced with that sort of experience again, wouldn't want that on my conscience, wouldn't want to be the one who had to tell the parents that their child had suffered due to lack of vigilance on his part (not a comforting thought) and so I would want to be sure I was doing everything in my power to help the child avoid being in that situation from the start.



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Gunny makes a great point. The responsibility should be with the person who has the allergy. Why should the rest of the unit be forced to go without something others may enjoy because on person is allergic to it? They shouldn't.


Ed Mori

1 Peter 4:10

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Our troop went nut free a few years back when a peanut allergic scout joined up. We asked the mom to help us know what foods were nut free and what were not. I too miss my PB&J from time to time, but this is a small sacrifice. Going nut free has not impaired our program in any way. I viewed it as an opportuntiy to educate our scouts about food generally.

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