Camping can be a wonderful experience for the whole family. But if you suffer from allergies, a spring or summer camping trip can turn into an outright nightmare.
Important Things to Consider
Depending on the type of allergy and the triggers that worsen the symptoms, simple tips and tricks can make a trip into the woods more enjoyable. The first step is anticipating what the allergies may be if you are camping with friends and family.
If you are the one who suffers from allergies, bringing remedies with you that work and are practical will help keep you present and alert. Sometimes, even simple tricks like wearing sunglasses and a hat can alleviate the mildest of allergy symptoms.
Depending on the season, it’s important to keep your eyes and face free of irritants. Simply splashing some water on yourself from a canister or a freshly flowing river from a clear water lake can aid in clearing airborne allergens, like pollen or ragweed, away from where they can do their damage.
When hay fever strikes, you may need over-the-counter allergy medication, especially if you are sleeping outdoors. As a result, it’s always best to come prepared and include some allergy medication in your first aid kit.
Allergy-Proof/Hypoallergenic Sleeping Bags, Tents and Bedding
Bedding can also be a problem and a potential allergy trigger while camping outdoors. In most homes, dust mites are a nearly endemic problem that causes allergies for countless unsuspecting individuals.
Those sleeping bags that were stored in the garage probably aren’t helping, either. Thousands of microscopic dust mites can feed, breed and live on even a single speck of dust collected in the fabric. Add outdoor pollen or seasonal triggers to this, and you have the perfect cocktail to keep you sneezing and sniffling all through the night.
Allergy-proof bedding, including sleeping bags, can reduce dust mites, pet dander and outdoor allergens by 99.5%. Allergists regularly recommend allergy-proof bedding as the best option to keep you sleeping soundly, and outdoors, they can become indispensable.
It’s also important to make sure the tent is clean and can close properly. There are even hypoallergenic tents that will ensure you don’t have all those unwelcome microscopic visitors inside your tent.
Camping Tool Kit: Sun-Screen
But aside from sleeping, most of your time will be spent enjoying the outdoors, kayaking, hiking, swimming and other fun activities. Summer camping means time in the sun, and sun protection is necessary.
A recent study from Australia found that applying sunscreen daily reduced the risk of melanoma by 50 percent. It is no surprise that sunscreen is a vital part of any camping tool kit.
What is less-known is that many people suffer from allergies to certain ingredients found in common over-the-counter, or even prescription, sunblocks. These are allergies which can largely go undetected. Symptoms include red skin, itching and can go as far as blisters that are filled with fluid, swelling and fatigue or lightheadedness; sound familiar?
An allergy to the chemicals in sunblock, which is meant to absorb UV rays, can look a lot like and feel like a sunburn. If you’ve been camping before, but have noticed you seem to get uncomfortable and burnt in the areas where you thought you had previously applied sunscreen, you may have an allergy to the many toxic chemicals used in sunscreens.
In addition to uneven redness, be on the lookout for splotches and raised bumps. If the toxic load is incompatible with your body, you may feel lightheaded, like being in the sun for a long time and becoming slightly dehydrated.
If you suffer from a chemical allergy, there are alternative sunscreens that can work for you. Sunscreens known as physical sunscreens contain powdered versions of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. The powdered version is meant to reflect light from the sun, and thus keep the chemicals from penetrating the skin.
If you suffer from slight irritation or are a lot more prone to breaking out when using an over-the-counter sunblock, you may also have a sunblock allergy, although one that is less severe. For those with eczema, sensitive skin, slight or severe chemical allergies, or for those that want a non-toxic ticket to fun in the sun, hypoallergenic sunscreen, like Vanicream Sunscreen’s SPF 50+, may be the best option since the formula contains no irritating chemicals. These chemicals are absorbed into the body and contribute to toxic loads, causing illness and disease.
Camping Tool Kit: Bug Repellant
Just as sunblock is necessary for any camping trip, so is mosquito and bug repellent. Unfortunately, some individuals can also suffer from an allergy to diethyltoluamide or DEET, the most common ingredient in insect repellent. If you notice instant erythema (or redness of the skin mucous embraces) or pruritus (unpleasant sensation with a need to scratch), you are likely allergic to this chemical compound.
Try natural citronella candles or incense around the campfire that doesn’t make direct contact with your skin. In more severe cases, Picaridin-based insect repellents work effectively. While Permethrin is a strong insecticide, it is not known to cause allergies but should also only be applied to clothing and not directly to skin.
For a natural approach, lemon eucalyptus oil is thought to be a natural insect repellant, although you will have to constantly reapply, as its effectiveness wears off quickly. Make sure to wear long sleeves and comfortable pants, and know when you are at greater risk of exposure to mosquito bites (such as a swampy campground versus a mountain setting).
Inside the Camp Cooler
Finally, being conscious of people’s food allergies, say by including gluten-free hot dogs for campers with gluten sensitivities, can save time, money and uncomfortable situations. Camp food is as integral to camping as nature, and no one likes to feel like they’re being left out. Simply asking those you will be camping with what their food sensitivities might be will keep everyone on the same boat, so to speak (I bet you might not have known that hot dogs had gluten!).
With a few tricks and some preparation, this brief list can help you keep everyone happily around the campfire, without the obligatory sneezing and sniffling, or suffering from discomfort, all which allergies can create and exasperate during your camping trip. You can keep everyone singing right through the best ever rendition of Kumbaya, and save the achoos for another trip!
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