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School hiking camp!

Hiking

Hiking is such an entrancing experience, especially with friends. It provides an escape from reality and the day-to-day routine. In the moment as you look into the distant shrubs and hills and the glistening rivers, you indulge in the beauty of the moment – no distractions, no worries and stresses of the familiar life.

And so, when my high school offered the adventure of a lifetime participating in Duke of Edinburgh – a program that involved a 3-day hiking trip – I was eager to go. As fun as it had sounded at first, it slowly dawned on me that the prospect of going to the middle of nowhere with a severe peanut allergy was something that needed serious consideration. There were so many threatening what-ifs. What if others bring foods with peanuts in them? Will I really be OK if others eat peanut in our tent? I’m told I can’t go into anaphylaxis from smelling peanut, but is that really true? How will we manage cross-contamination when preparing and heating our food? What if I have an allergic reaction? In the middle of nowhere, how would I manage to get to the hospital quickly? It was frightening to know that the nearest help was almost light-years away and all I had was a couple of EpiPens to stop the onslaught of anaphylaxis. So with all these risks, was it still worth it to go? Was it better to compromise and keep myself safe?

I knew if I missed this, I would regret not going. I discussed what to do with my family. Although they were worried, they supported me in my decision. We knew prevention of an allergic reaction is paramount and talking to the supervisor of the trip should be the first thing to do. And so we had a meeting and talked about plans to support me. The supervisor said that in a future group meeting, he would let everyone know about my severe peanut allergy and tell everyone not to bring food containing peanuts on the trip. Initially, I felt embarrassed that he was going to announce it to the class and that my classmates wouldn’t be happy because nut bars are a hiking essential. However, in talking about this with my parents, I realised that my safety is way more important than a minor inconvenience for others and if others are considerate, they will understand. Slowly over the years, I’ve come to accept my allergy as not something that defines me, but which is an extension of me. And in these moments when I backslide into negative thoughts, I remind myself that it is exhausting to care about what others might think of me.

Another part of the plan was to take more than 2 EpiPens. My teacher brought 2 EpiPens in the first aid kit and I had my 2 EpiPens. This reassured me because if I did have anaphylaxis, injecting myself with an EpiPen every 5 minutes if my condition did not improve (following the instructions on my ASCIA action plan) could buy us more time to get me to a safer place. I think this important precaution eased my family's and my worries a bit.

Everyone had to bring their ingredients to make breakfast and dinner. Before the camp, my cooking group (my 2 friends and I) planned a spreadsheet listing what ingredients we needed to buy before the camp. We made sure that it was the food I was familiar with and had eaten before, and that there weren't any labels saying ‘may contain peanuts’. I think planning made the whole experience more organised and made me feel confident with every aspect of the hike, whether it was eating snacks along the trail or cooking dinner in our trangia (camp cooking stove).

Overall, when going on trips out of your comfort zone, the most important thing is the planning process to ensure a smooth experience. It was a great trip! I loved the tranquillity of being in the middle of nowhere. The preparation was well worth it!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

IN AN EMERGENCY

If you are having an allergic reaction follow advice on your ASCIA Action Plan.

If in doubt, give the Anapen® or EpiPen®.

Do not call us for emergency advice.

If you do not have an ASCIA Action Plan and/or an Anapen® or EpiPen® call triple zero (000) for an ambulance.