As I mentioned, I recently did a short stint as a roadie with the kids’ choir, serving as chaperon and nurse on their Big Tour. I was fascinated by the information that the parents put (and failed to put) on the medical forms.
If ever you find yourself in a position to fill out one of those forms on behalf of your child, I thought it might be useful to tell you why we ask the questions we do.
You should know, the medical forms are not just for shits and giggles. We read them, make plans for who needs what, devise medication schedules, and then destroy them at the end of the trip. Please fill them out thoroughly. But use your head. Here we go.
First, when we ask about your child’s allergies, we are looking for information on those things that would or could trigger a significant event. By significant, I mean anaphylaxis or asthma. Not a sniffly nose. Not anything that would not require a) a trip to a hospital, or b) administration of medication to prevent severe discomfort. Honestly, I don’t need to know if your child is “allergic” to dust or rabbits or metal. If it’s a nuisance allergy or a mild reaction to something that is avoidable (Think about how many cats we will be likely to come across. If we do, can your child be trusted either not to touch it, or to deal with the consequences of touching it?) then I don’t need to know about it. If it’s environmental and will make their lives miserable for the duration of the trip, by all means, send medication. And since your child will be sent home on the first Greyhound if caught smoking, the 12-year-old’s “nicotine allergy” is probably not necessary to document*.
For those allergies that are actually life-threatening, it’s helpful for the parents to speak with the chaperones prior to the trip. A casual mention on the medical form that your kid has anaphylactic reactions to peanuts doesn’t cut it. Especially if you don’t send an Epi-pen. First, I am much less likely to take it seriously if you can’t be bothered to fully inform us in person, or provide preventive measures. We don’t carry epinephrine in the first aid kit. Chances are, that allergy is nothing more than you Munchausen-ing the poor kid into believing that the big bad world is out to get them, resulting in the misapprehension that nothing is their fault. Get them re-tested (or tested, if the diagnosis was made only on the basis of information you got from the internet), so you can stop creating drama where it does not need to be. And for Pete’s sake, send an Epi-pen if there’s an allergy! We will not be able to save your child from a true allergic reaction without one.
And by the way, inhalers count as medications. If your child has asthma and requires an inhaler, send it. Labeled. With explicit instructions on how often and when to use it. Ensure the child knows how to use it. We are happy to assist and/or administer to those who need help. But if your kid is self-sufficient at using their inhaler, we still need to know that they are on it and whether we need to remind them. And if it’s been 7 years since the kid’s last attack, congratulations on maintaining supreme control over their condition. At least I hope it’s control, because otherwise, you are just another hypochondriac brainwashed by Big Pharma into purchasing unnecessary medications, and then subjecting your child to them and all their possible side effects.
It blows me away how many kids are on some kind of medication. No wonder the pharmaceutical industry is booming. If your child is on any medication, we need to know what it’s for and when they are to take it. If something should happen and they need to go to a hospital, the first question we will be asked is what meds they are on. It can literally be the difference between life and death if we don’t have all the information. Please, don’t send a few pills in a bottle with an outdated label on it. Please, do describe on the medical form exactly what the medication is, when it is to be taken and whether the child can remember on their own or if they need us to administer it. If they do, give us the med. Don’t leave it with the kid and hope they don’t lose it. However, handing over a mystery bag of drugs with a few last-minute verbal instructions as the kid gets on the bus is probably a bad idea. Chances are pretty good we won’t get it right.
And another thing. Nasal spray is not something that will address a life-threatening issue. If an adolescent finds nasal spray helpful for something, they should know when and how to take it. And they shouldn’t need a reminder. If they do, they probably aren’t having symptoms that nasal spray would help. Salt water up the nose is not terribly effective when given on a schedule. It’s meant to be given as needed. If they don’t need it, don’t give it.
How about dietary restrictions? We need to know if someone has a nasty sensitivity to, say, lactose, or eggs or gluten. We need to know if they are vegetarian or keep kosher. I’m not terribly interested (or sympathetic) if they are simply picky eaters, especially if they are rude or disrespectful to those who are preparing their food. There are very few children that would actually perish if they missed a meal (diabetics notwithstanding), and the short-term discomfort of going hungry might force them to try something new and interesting. It’s not like they are being forced to eat eel eyes or cream of tarantula soup. Suck it up, buttercup. Having said that, if the kid is pleasant about it or there’s a genuine intolerance, I’ll do my best to help them find something acceptable. Better yet, the parent can call ahead and make their own arrangements. We love it when you do that, especially when you provide us with the details so we know what’s ok and what’s off limits.
Ok, I think that’s it for my pet peeves. Let the angry comments fly.
*Really? Nicotine? How do you know that? Unless the kid is smoking or has unrestricted access to your Nicorette patches, there’s not much chance that they’ve ever come in contact with nicotine. More likely, it’s the toxic haze from Grandma’s two-pack-a-day habit, which contains little, if any. But who knows. Maybe other families have more liberal rules than mine does.