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Residental School Trip - (long and ranty, sorry)

(28 Posts)
YouNeedAThneed Wed 15-Jul-09 13:52:19

Have namechanged.

DS (9) has multiple food allergies, the most significant of which is milk, because as you all know, it's in just about everything.

There is a week-long residential trip coming up. DH is going along as well - the school always take parent helpers and DH is going to be one.

The thing is that the offer that DH could go was initially promised, then withdrawn, and I had to almost insist the school honoured their promise.

DH thinks that DS would be fine on his own. I think he may be but we can't be sure.

I keep saying that the reason I think he needs one of us there is because DS is allergic to milk. All the food in the place the kids will be staying in will almost certainly be nut free but there's no way it will be milk free. And he'll be sat there every morning with everyone else having milk on their cornflakes, and who is going to check that he gets his dairy free stuff? The staff have enough to do without fussing over DS. I actually feel like we'll be doing them a favour by having DH there so they don't have to worry about him so much. As I said, it's not as if he is an extra tagging along, he is one of the number of parents they would have taken anyway.

I don't think I am all that fussy. DS has been away from home on two sleepovers: one was fine, at the other he had an asthma attack and had to come home. NHS direct said I had to sleep in his room the remainder of the night and when I later described his symptoms to my sister (a school 1st Aider) she thought he should have gone to A&E. But he was OK in the morning. He has been on one Beaver Camp, which DH attended and one Cub Camp alone, for which I provided the food. He has another Cub Camp this weekend. He didn't take his inhaler for the duration of the last Cub Camp, despite constant lectures on the importance of this. I'm saying all this to show I do let him out of my sight. Although I won't have any wine in case I have to get out of bed in the night to go and fetch him.

I am starting to feel like such a fool for wanting DH to be there. He has made it clear that he thinks it is unnecessary, and a pain, but if I challenge him he says he'll enjoy the trip and would be happy to go on it anyway. So why keep making me feel like this???

On the other hand, DH keeps trying to get the allergy nurse to tell us "just how bad or not" DS's allergies are. FWIW I actually think his allergy has improved a little. When I have mentioned it to the allergy nurse, or when DH asks her about it, you can see this look of pity come over her face. She clearly thinks we are in denial.

I am sitting here in tears wishing so much I had someone to talk to. I am tired of being made to feel like a neurotic loon by one set of people and someone in denial by another.

I wish I was going on the trip myself - but when it came to putting names down I didn't know whether DS2 would be as allergic and whether I'd still be BF him.

Sorry for the long post. I thought I'd feel better for typing it, but I don't...

foxinsocks Wed 15-Jul-09 14:02:55

welllll, is it an anaphylactic allergy? I mean, how bad does it get if he has milk?

I'll be completely honest with you and say that at 9, I would fully expect my child to understand the seriousness of their allergies. I would also expect the school to have had a meeting with you where they showed you how they intended on dealing with his allergy on this trip (so menu planning in advance etc., making sure there's no contamination).

I think, if you have reasons to believe that the school will not adequately provide for him on this trip AND you believe he is not the sort of child that can look out for himself (and I believe you really need to nurture this in allergy children because it's so important), then you have reason not to let him go on the trip.

I think letting him go but sending dh is a bit of a cop out.

I think some of your wording above does make it sound that you don't want to let go of him (e.g. 'staff there have enough to do without fussing over ds'). It's not fussing, it's their job and they should be providing food that is suitable for him.

You are not a neurotic loon and I'm sure your family are not in denial. Allergies are a pita but if his allergy does not look like it is going to be outgrown, you must equip him with the skills to deal with it in real life. In only a year or so, he will be in secondary school where he will have to do a lot on his own and he needs to get used to thinking about his food carefully.

Bilbomum Wed 15-Jul-09 14:11:58

You are not a neurotic loon YouNeed. The stress of having a child with serious allergies is immense and it's not easy to understand if you haven't had first hand experience of it. It makes everyday things seem insurmountable (ie. staying away safely). It seems so simple to say 'my child's allergic to milk' but the reality of living with it and dealing is higly stressful.

You can't possibly trust someone else to look after your child as safely as you would and nine year old boys, although sometimes sensible, can't/shouldn't be relied on to police themselves. DH should be there as it sounds like you have your hands full with another one.

And as for the allergy nurse, she must surely understand that we all harbour the hope that our kids will outgrow their allergies, it might be optimistic but sometimes we all need something positive to focus on.

I spent last night at ds's new pre-school and listened to the head cheerfully explaining that there was a table with milk available for the kids to help themselves at all times and felt like bursting into tears.

When I feel like this I just try focus on the positives, I'm determined that I won't look back and just remember all the horrible stressful parts of ds's childhood. Keep your chin up smile x

YouNeedAThneed Wed 15-Jul-09 14:12:43

Yes it is an anaphylactic allergy.

I am training him to understand, and he is very good. However, eating out of the home is very difficult, especially in a place which would be catering on a grand scale for a couple of hundred kids. It's not going to be somewhere where he can "ask the waiter" what's in his food.

If they get it right - fine. If they don't . . . well, dairy free is bloody hard.

The intention is not for DH to be hovering over him all the time, BTW. In fact we both agree this would be bad for him in EVERY way. I think he needs to be one of the adults just in case. He will have as little to do with DS as possible.

I did consider not letting him go but thought that would be cruel.

YouNeedAThneed Wed 15-Jul-09 14:14:49

Thanks Bilbomum. You've made me cry again smile. Sorry you've got this too. God, I remember the fecking pre-school milk as well.

YouNeedAThneed Wed 15-Jul-09 14:16:48

Actually foxinsocks, DS doesn't know milk could kill him. He knows it would put him in hospital. He's frightened of dying at the moment so we haven't told him. I wouldn't know how to break it to him.

Bilbomum Wed 15-Jul-09 14:17:40

Oh God, I'm crying now.... what is it with us neurotic allergy parents.... grin

foxinsocks Wed 15-Jul-09 14:19:04

well you need to put pressure on the school to make sure this is sorted

in your position (I have allergic children), I would have asked them to show me exactly what they planned for each meal (it would have been worked out in advance), how they planned to keep his plates/utensils separate, what medical provision they have in case of emergency, how they would tell the children about not sharing snacks etc. etc. I imagine they would allocate an adult to keep an eye on him and remind him to take his medication. Schools normally do very detailed planning for trips.

I do know how you feel and I think it's a difficult age but you can't be with them all the time and where you can't, you need to make sure exactly what is being provided for in the interim iyswim.

It is hard though and I don't think you lose that mother worry with allergies, I really don't.

NikkiH Wed 15-Jul-09 14:19:05

I back what foxinsocks says. My DS1 is gluten intolerant and has now done four residential trips with school including one to France. Dealing with a child with food allergies / intolerances is a PITA for the school but it is part of the job when it comes to planning school activities. They need to step up to the mark, plan for it and show you that they are taking due attention to detail - and you need to let them do it. Can you work with the school to emphasise the seriousness of the situation and to reassure yourself that sufficient care is being taken?

foxinsocks Wed 15-Jul-09 14:22:34

when was his last anaphylactic reaction?

I'm realising that in a way, I was always 'lucky' as my dcs experienced v severe reactions when they were little and always remembered them thus never ever went near the foods they were allergic to again (and always checked their food etc.)!

It is harder if they don't remember how severe their reaction has been. I do think you need to tell him the severity of his allergy though otherwise you do run the risk of him not taking it seriously.

YouNeedAThneed Wed 15-Jul-09 14:34:23

What happened is that last year DH went to the meeting about the forthcoming trip. We were obviously concerned, and expected to have to go through the whole rigmarole, as foxinsocks says of: "I would have asked them to show me exactly what they planned for each meal (it would have been worked out in advance), how they planned to keep his plates/utensils separate, what medical provision they have in case of emergency, how they would tell the children about not sharing snacks etc. etc. I imagine they would allocate an adult to keep an eye on him and remind him to take his medication. Schools normally do very detailed planning for trips."

When DH mentioned our concerns, he was told, oh well you can come as one of the parent helpers, for definite, usually we pick the names out of a hat. He came home and told me and we thought, oh great, that's that sorted, no need to put the school/holiday centre through the 3rd degree, DH can go and it will be fine.

I also thought it will be easier for the school. Asked to choose, go through all the stuff in the first paragraph, or simply invite the father along and let him sort it out. I know what I'd pick if I was the school.

When we had not had confirmation of DH going several months down the line we pushed a bit and got told "er, um, well we are not sure you'll be able to go." I said that if DH couldn't go, then DS wouldn't be going either. I didn't really mean it (though DH keeps throwing it in my face), I was just trying to get them to honour their promise. I do have sympathy for the school because if one set of parents have special reasons for accompanying their child, every set of parents will be able to dream up something.

I was worried sick about it but thought that a) DH would probably be miraculously picked out of the hat anyway and b) if not, we would have to talk to the holiday centre and school and go through all the above.

So anyway, there isn't anything to be SORTED. It's all sorted, DH is going. What's not sorted is his resentment at going and my feeling that he and the school think I am neurotic, whereas the people who really know about allergies don't think I am neurotic enough.

FWIW, DS is very sensible about his allergies and although I know he will probably try to take risks in his teens, he doesn't at the moment. I am not telling him the true scale of the situation now. No way.

scienceteacher Wed 15-Jul-09 14:43:52

I was on a school residential recently and once of the nine-year olds was allergic to milk. She brought her own goats' milk. It wasn't a problem.

Milk doesn't necessarily have to be in everything and the centre should be able to provide an alternative meal (if the others were having pizza, for example).

foxinsocks Wed 15-Jul-09 14:46:09

ah ok

well why is dh now thinking he doesn't want to go? do you think he never really wanted to go in the first place? was he on his own in that meeting with the school? sounds like he might feel he had no option but to say yes and is now feeling a bit cross about that.

NikkiH Wed 15-Jul-09 14:51:45

I totally sympathise - you're caught between the devil and the deep blue sea! You're not neurotic - you're the mother of a child with a life threatening allergy, you have to take it seriously and make sure everyone else is doing the same or else the consequences could be too dreadful to contemplate.

A gluten intolerance is not the same as the allergy your son has so I can only imagine what you have to cope with but I do know how it feels to be the parent seen to be - in others' eyes - 'cosying up' to the teachers / group leaders at the end of meetings 'fussing' over their DC. Not nice.

Hope your son - and DH - ultimately enjoy the trip and that the school show your DH - and, through him, you - that they can care for your child's needs when he is on their watch and not leave it all to your DH to do.

scienceteacher Wed 15-Jul-09 14:57:41

Is the supplier of your trip a major one, such as PGL? If so, they will be very experienced in dealing with children with severe allergies.

YouNeedAThneed Wed 15-Jul-09 15:05:56

DH isn't saying he doesn't want to go. He says he will enjoy it. He's just constantly re-iterating that he doesn't think he needs to go, that I am "completely laudably" [his words hmm ] being over-maternal. And saying that threatening that DS wouldn't go without DH was OTT. Which it was, but hey, I wanted them to honour what they have said, it was a knee-jerk reaction and could have been easily withdrawn.

And he keeps saying about so-and-so who said they would let their child with food allergies go on their own. But that child isn't allergic to bloody MILK, which is my point! DS is allergic to several foods, I practically never mention them, as they are all a doddle compared to MILK. It's in - or can be in - just about everything.

It's as if DH thinks everyone else's opinion on the subject is valid, and mine is shit. He's not usually like that.

It's not the first time I have looked like a ridiculous overprotective tit, and it won't be the last. But I am getting tired of it.

YouNeedAThneed Wed 15-Jul-09 15:08:54

I think it most likely is a major one, Scienceteacher, but I don't know yet. We haven't had any forms to fill out yet.

Had DH not been going on the trip, he says we could have gone over to the holiday place to check it out. (It's a long way away) Which seems far more fussy to me than having one of us on the trip.

scienceteacher Wed 15-Jul-09 15:20:23

You need to find out the basics, and then you can put your mind at rest.

Communication is key here.

If it were me, I would find out which teacher is responsible for your child and then talk directly with them. They will then liaise with the centre staff on the day to make sure that everything is OK. Prior to the trip, you need to find out the policy of the centre and make sure that they are aware of your DC's condition and can cater for him.

I would also be prepared to send some food along for him, such as goat/soya milk, dairy snacks etc.

IME of a recent visit, the kids had a traditional breakfast - cereal, fruit, sausages etc. For the cereal, an allergic child can bring their own milk - is there anything else that would be a problem? For lunch, we had sandwiches - bread + tuna/ham/cheese. Assuming cheese is out, would there be a problem with sandwiches? For supper, we had a variety of foods, none of which were particularly 'creamy' (eg fishfingers).

You should be able to get a menu ahead of time, and then veto anything you don't like. There should always be two choices, meat/veggie, as well as salads. If nothing will work, then you should be able to send your own food.

Focus on the positives - ie what you can do to make it work. Your DS will get loads out of the trip and it would be a shame for him to miss out.

bridewolf Wed 15-Jul-09 15:30:24

i must admit that the primary school was reasonalbly ok to sort out re-school trips.

it was stressful, i phoned the chef myself, talked over my sons list of allergies, and was really happy with it all.
esp as these days food allergies are not unknown when dealing with large groups of children.

we sent our son on school trips for yr 5 and yr 6. he was fine.

however recently cancelled last school trip yr 8 due to ill health.

we dont have milk, but do have a long list to avoid, some are allergies that arent too common.

i found it more stressful writing out the two sided forms for each one of his medications, his emergency meds, his daily allergy meds, his migraine meds!

Bilbomum Wed 15-Jul-09 15:33:04

Maybe your dh is burying his head in the sand a little about ds's problems in the hope that everything will be ok (or it will just go away). It could explain why he pushes the allergy nurse about "just how bad or not" DS's allergies are. Has he ever witnessed him having a major reaction? Perhaps it's not your reaction to it that's the problem it's more to do with his feelings about the allergy.

My dh is well aware of the problems ds has but because he never does the food shopping/cooking he never really deals with the reality of it.

Luckily he was around to see the only major reaction ds has ever had (he gave him milk chocolate by mistake) and that seemed to bring home the severity of the situation. Seeing your small child wearing an oxygen mask in A&E is not something you forget in a hurry.

girlsyearapart Wed 15-Jul-09 19:47:10

Oh bless you. What a worry. I think - in general- Mums seem to worry/take allergies more seriously than Dads. My DH varies wildly between telling me I'm being over neurotic about dd2';s diet and telling me off if I want to try new foods with her.. Your DH is a good man for going on the trip- a week with 30 9 year olds-hmmm not much of a holiday!
FWIW I'm also a teacher and would be glad to have the parent of the allergic child with the group. Maybe you could see how this trip goes and next time he could go without you or your DH?

bigTillyMint Wed 15-Jul-09 19:54:14

I have taken two children (siblings) with PKU on school journey. The mum gave me detailed information on what was safe / what to avoid and also packs of special bread, biscuits, etc.

The staff at the residential place took it very seriously and the chiildren had a great time.

I understand your worries, and it seems like a good idea for your DH to go if you feel it would be best - if it goes well, maybe there'll be a future opportunity for him to go alone.

drinkmoretea Wed 15-Jul-09 19:57:50

Hi, I just wanted to say that I work in a childrens residential activity centre and allergies are sooo common these days. Our catering manager has to deal with all manner of allergies and religious requirements (ie Halal) These are all catered for individually, the catering manager has a list of names and allergies in advance of the trip. We are more than happy to talk to concerned parents prior to the trip. So if you can give the centre a call because it doesn't sound like the school are giving you too much reassurance.

Please try not to worry x

drinkmoretea Wed 15-Jul-09 19:59:07

I also meant to say, we would never expect a child to bring any of their own food, no matter what their allergy..

rumdontbotherreplyingmum Wed 15-Jul-09 20:13:00

Hi YouNeedAThneed, My DS is 11 and is allergic to dairy, eggs and nuts, he also has a epi pen. He came back from his residential trip last week and survived, smile althought I did worry about him!

I rang and emailed the centre just to check how they would cater for his needs. Breakfast was fine, weetabix and I supplied his own soya milk. Lunch was sandwiches, (all students had dairy free spread) although he didn't have ham or cheese in it.
tea was one night pasta, he had it plain, and the second night was a bbq, the sausages were Linda Mcartneys. (he only went for 2 nights)

I also sent a selection of food for him, ie, biscuits, breadsticks, crisps...
IMO he will be looked after MORE, they will all know who he is, and at 9 he should know that he is different, and be able to ask about what in his food.

ring the center direct, they cater for all different allergies, and should be able to put your mind at rest.

does your ds have a epi-pen, piriton and inhaler that he takes every where with him?

where's he going, what centre is it?

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