Allergy Communication in a Group

I went camping again this past weekend. That seems to be a very common theme lately, but this time it was with a group. This means that chores (including dish washing, cooking, and meals) are shared. In situations like this, it’s really important to communicate needs with a large group of people, which seems almost impossible. Someone always misses something, including me.

00050In the lead-up to the weekend, I told everyone that I might have trouble washing dishes depending on logistics because I couldn’t use their soap and towels. I also let them know that I was unable to eat eggs and dairy. I tried to make everyone aware that dairy is in a lot or margarines and cooking sprays, and started thinking of other ways I could help out. A week and a half before the weekend I found that excluding nightshades from my diet seemed to be helping and I’d like to keep doing so, but was afraid to mention it because the others were already making accommodations for me. I didn’t want to make people resent me before we even got there. I looked at the proposed menu and spoke to the one person who was cooking with potatoes, arranging to have them cooked on the side and added later.

When I arrived, the potato request had already been mentioned to more people, who met it with confusion. I had to explain that I hadn’t known when we first started talking about the weekend, and why I was asking to avoid it now. Everyone was really prepared to avoid eggs and dairy, and one person couldn’t eat tomatoes, so potato avoidance wasn’t too big a stretch, but they were a bit uncomfortable with the last-minute news. Very understandable.

Since I’m sensitive to chlorine, we took our own drinking water. The shower was the other major concern. The water provided on-site was heavily chlorinated, and since the shower was filtering and recycling, but not effectively filtering out chlorine, it would have been easy to add vitamin C to the reservoir to neutralize the chlorine. Unfortunately, I kept wanting to bathe in the dark. I couldn’t find the reservoir in the dark, so I ended up taking a number of sponge baths and just rinsing my hair with a measuring cup.

We weren’t able to make it to site for setup. When it came time to do chores, the soapy dish water and cloth were set up for each meal, so there was no way I could sneak in with my soap to wash for the group. The water-and-soap-filled bins were there by the time anyone finished eating, and stayed set up until all dishes were done. Some people did dishes for the group, and others stepped in to wash their own dishes before and afterwards. My soap would not have been accepted.

I was frustrated and nervous. I wanted to make a good impression, and couldn’t really help with the two biggest tasks. I decided that if I was going to be able to contribute, it would have to be with garbages, collecting dishes and bottles/cans, and other camp cleanup. I tried to help cook on Saturday night, but I was in the middle of a fencing tournament when people wanted it cooked, so my husband took the task on fully himself. On Sunday, I tried to help pack up the common area things, without actually knowing where things went.

mf816What did I learn? Since camping with this group is going to become a more regular thing:

  1. I’m not a great cook (more of a baker), so maybe I can help others pull out foods others need and put things away, or cut things up and tend pots.
  2. I want to continue to contribute with camp clean-up duties. Nobody likes doing it, and it’s one of the things I can do without major allergy exposure. I need to make sure I quickly learn where things belong so I can help put them away.
  3. I was offered disposable gloves so that I can wash dishes for the next time, but since they tend to have coatings (even the un-powdered ones), that’s not a viable solution. Barring a better solution than reusable gloves (need to avoid splashing soapy, chlorinated water into the gloves), I am likely to be a greater asset on other chores, like camp cleanup and garbage.
  4. Eggs and dairy are a lot easier for people to avoid than potatoes. I need to remember that potato chips contain potato. I kept thinking I could have the snacks everyone else was eating and then being sadly reminded.
  5. I really should have mentioned and explained the nightshades ahead of time, even with the short notice, to avoid confusion when people found out third-hand.
  6. Next time I need to make sure I add vitamin C to the shower reservoir during daylight hours or otherwise make better provisions for showering. Getting to rinse my hair under warm water at least once would have been nice.

Finally, this was my fortune on the drive home. Disappointingly apt:


Have you figured out better ways to meet some of these challenges while in a group of people? Comment below.

One Response to “Allergy Communication in a Group”

  1. That really sucks. Can you have something like soylent instead of eating on a meal plan? I eat alone instead of joining one because it’s just too stressful.

    For our community set up we have all the bins labled so other people can help with putting stuff away.

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