Vote for the video I made about my research and help me win!

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As many of you may or may not know, aside from all my advocacy, leadership programs and coaching, I am also a research assistant at the University of Alberta. I work in the Social Support Research Program with Dr. Miriam Stewart developing online peer support programs for families living with asthma and allergies. I started with Dr. Stewart’s team back in 2008 when I was a mentor in their very first online program and have remained extremely involved ever since. These programs are a very large part of my life and I stand behind them.

Through my involvement in research I joined the AllerGen Students & New Professionals Network (ASNPN), in 2010. As a trainee, I attend regular symposiums for career and professional development. This year they have their first annual Video Competition and I have entered a 3 minute animated video about my research.

I need all the votes I can get to win this competition, so please watch my video  and vote for it by “liking” the video!

** In order to vote you will need to sign in to your youtube account or create an account. It is quick to create an account.

Voting is open until May 15th!

Please share with your friends and family!

Thank you all for your support, it means the world to me!

Best,

Erika

 

 

Flying to Toronto with Westjet with allergies another success!

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A week ago I left Victoria, headed to Toronto for a series of conferences and meetings with AllerGen NCE and the Asthma Society of Canada. A few days prior to leaving I called Westjet to advise them of my allergies to both food and cats/dogs. Within a minute of calling, my call was answered. I was amazed! What great customer service!

I mentioned that I had severe allergies to peanuts and tree nuts and she asked if I wanted them to make an announcement on the plane about having a passenger aboard with allergies. I said yes. The customer service representative then advised me that at that time no pets had been added to either of my 2 flights. I was relieved. She did remind  me that pets could be added to the flight anywhere up to 2 hrs prior to the flight. I told her that I would check again at the gate.

Fast forward to departure day…

I had my entire “travel kit” ready. In my purse with all the antihistamines I could need, my medications, wipes and masks.

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I went to the gate 1.5 hrs before departure to be sure I had enough time to speak with someone. As it turns out, a dog had been recently added to the flight and was going to be 2 rows in front of me. They changed my seat so I would be at the back of the plane, which was great for me as I ended up with no one beside me, and could have more legroom too.

I went through security and then at the gate I went straight to the desk to speak to them about pre-boarding and identify myself as the passenger with all the allergies.

At that time I was advised that there was a dog on the plane that had just landed, which we were boarding and it had been very close to where I was supposed to be seated for my flight. We considered moving me to the middle of the plane but it was pretty full, so they told me they would wipe down the seats for me before I boarded the plane and had me pre-board way before anyone else. When I boarded the plane the kind westjet flight attendant in the above picture, mentioned that he had wiped down the seats near where the dog had been and my seat. He even offered me more wipes to clean further if I needed to. I advised I had my own wipes and thanked him for having gone above and beyond to try and make the aircraft as safe a possible for me.

I did my own cleaning of the seat, table and seat belt, placed my epipens and inhaler in the seat pocket infront of me and put on my mask and took my antihistamines. Then settled back in my seat; ready for the first leg of my flight to Edmonton…

Halfway through this first flight I brought out my safe oatmeal from Libre Naturals and asked the flight attendant for some hot water. Whenever I fly, oatmeal is the easiest food to take with me. And it fills me right up!

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Second leg of my trip from Edmonton to Toronto went great as well.  When I landed in Edmonton, I went straight to the gate and once again identified myself. They already had all my allergies in the file and said that I could pre-board soon.

Once again, Westjet made another announcement about my allergies and I had a safe flight. Landed safe and sound in Toronto!

If you can fly Westjet, I 100% recommend you fly with them over another airline in Canada. As they truly do everythign they can to make sure you have a safe trip, with the least stress possible.

Thank you Westjet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another terrific dinner at the Six Mile Pub!

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We don’t eat out much with all my food allergies and sensitivities to gluten and dairy, however the Six Mile Pub is a place we will keep going back to! Seriously, if you have allergies and want to go out for say a birthday dinner with friends or date night, consider giving them a try! You will not be let down!

Sometimes you wonder if the great service is just a one-off. Like if you just happened to get a great server who understood how serious your allergies are. After going back a second time, I assure you, they take food allergies and gluten sensitivities including celiac, very seriously! This time, I called in around lunch the same day to make a dinner reservation. I mentioned all my allergies and the waitress mentioned she had made a not in the reservation and that the staff would talk to me upon our arrival to make sure I had a good, safe dinner.

Sure enough, we were seated and the waitress brought my handwritten list of allergies to the kitchen immediately. Before even getting us drinks! It was great! Just that simple action relieved any anxiety I might have had about dinner. The waitress came back with the chef and he knew right away that I had been here before and said “you wrote that blog post about us, right?”! I smiled :) They remembered me. The manager came over after as well, to check-in and introduced me to the sous-chef incase I were to come a night when the head chef is not in.

I had another delicious meal with no stress and looking at my plate, no one would have known I had any food allergies or sensitivities! Presentation was yet again, an A+.

Thank you Six Mile Pub for making dining out with food allergies less worrisome. It’s great to know a restaurant 100% genuinly understands the risk of cross-contamination.

A great dinner at the Six Mile Pub with food allergies!

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Tonight my boyfriend and I went to the Six Mile Pub for date night. We had heard from family and friends that they had many gluten free options available and were very understanding.

This afternoon, knowing that we were going there for dinner, I called to make a reservation and to talk to them about my food allergies. Over the phone, I told them I had severe allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, soy and all legumes (peas & beans) and was also gluten and dairy sensitive. The woman I spoke to was very understanding and confirmed the allergies to be certain she had written them down correctly in the reservation itself. She also mentioned that the kitchen and staff are all extremely aware with food allergies and that they always take every possible precaution to ensure a reaction does not occur. This first contact was very reassuring for me.

When we arrived at the pub, the owner, David came to speak with me right away. He confirmed my allergies again and I gave him my card with the list of my allergies. He told us he was going to the kitchen to speak with the chef and would be right back. What happened next reassured me even more! Out of the kitchen came the owner David, and the chef, Jeff. He helped me figure out what I could have for dinner and substitutions we could make so I had a well rounded meal. WP_20150327_002

Our waitress took the order and checked in a few times to make sure everything was ok and I had what I needed. Dinner was delicious! Presentation was an A+ and I had a safe, tasty meal. Great date night thanks to wonderful, caring staff. We also had a great conversation with David, about how they manage food allergies in their kitchen and I was very happy to hear all the steps they take. David mentioned that the minute a customer tells the waiter/waitress that they have an allergy, the owner gets notified and then the kitchen. They have strict procedures in the kitchen to ensure there is no cross-contamination, including hand-washing, cleaning utensils, and surfaces.

If you, a friend or loved one has food allergies I HIGHLY recommend the Six Mile Pub. We will be going back. More than once! Food was delicious and I was not at all worried.

 

Keeping friends who understand food allergies close

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A few days ago, I wrote a post about my emotions around food allergies and how I have learned to from my experiences. I shared with you that I cope with fear by asking for help. I am not afraid to ask for help and know that if I don’t feel safe, then I don’t challenge or question that feeling. I have learned to trust my gut. There were a few comments shared around people who truly understand your allergy, or that of a loved one. About trust. These comments had me thinking… I am very fortunate to have the friends I have, who I can trust with my food allergies. They are the ones who will go out of their way to make sure I am safe and feel included. These are the friends we all need to keep really close.

I little while back, a good friend of mine invited me to her child’s birthday party. My friend knew I would not be able to eat the cake and asked me what cookie or muffin would be safe for me so she could get it for me. She went searching for the one brand of cookie I completely trust; Benjamin Bites. Little did I know, she had driven to several different grocery stores to try and find the cookie which they sell in individual packages, because it was not sold in every store or was out of stock. She is one of the friends I trust with my life. A friend I know will take every possible precaution when having me over for dinner to ensure that the meal is safe. A friend who will wipe down every single surface before I arrive to make sure that there wasn’t any peanut butter from the day before on the table, or a counter top. A friend who is not afraid to pick up the phone to call and double and triple check ingredients with me and precautions to take.

I have several friends that I often think might even take more precautions than I do; and I love that. I always feel safe. Even though I feel safe when these friends cook, I still ask questions, as I never want to let my guard down. That’s when accidents happen, accidents which could cost me my life. If my friends prepared the food without me in the kitchen, I ask about the prep, I ask about the ingredients that went into the meal, if there are labels, I re-read them all. Good friends never judge. They never question. They never feel that you don’t trust them because you want to re-read labels or feel uncertain about the utensils used to make the food. They want you to feel safe, and have a safe meal. They want to make sure you feel relaxed, and are not stressed. These are the friends we need to keep close. The friends we need to send thank you cards to out of the blue, just to let them know that their caring means so much to us. Openness, gratitude and appreciation go a long way.

Which friends would you trust with preparing food for you, or a loved one? Do they “get it”? How do you know when you can trust someone?

A roller coaster of emotions for those of us with food allergies

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Anxiety. Fear. These are some of the things that those of us with food allergies feel or have felt on numerous occasions. Fear of a severe allergic reaction. Anxiety over the fact that the food may not be 100% safe for us to eat. We have all felt it. Sometimes we might even question how safe food prepared by a loved one is. And that is not because we don’t trust that person, might it be a parent, family relative or really close friend. It’s hard to explain. I’ve questioned food prepared by loved ones before. No one ever gets hurt by my asking. Often times, I just need to know what is in the food. I need to know exactly what went into it, what knives were used, what surfaces the food was prepared on and who prepared it. To some people it may seem like we are crazy. And that we are extremely anxious. Some might think we are too anxious. That we are worrying too much. Please do not worry about what others think. Let them think whatever they want. I know from my own experience that if I feel unsettled or feel some nerves before eating something, that the only way to settle those nerves is to find out exactly what I am eating, who prepared it and what was used to prepare it.

When you live with severe food allergies, there are times that you start to question everything. You wonder if the cereal you eat might have been made in the same facility that other products you are allergic to are made in, even if you or your parents called the manufacturer to inquire. We all have times in our lives, whether you have food allergies or not, where we feel more vulnerable. Sometimes we are scared of letting our guard down due to a recent close call. Other times, we are just in a different head space and anxiety kicks in. We start to question everything. When that happens, having family and friends close by to re-assure us and be our eyes and ears is the most important. We need to feel safe.

We hear about safety in the media; safety precautions with severe weather and when in dangerous neighborhoods after dark, safety at work, and staying indoors when there is a threat, only to name a few. For those of us with food allergies, we also experience fear over our own safety. No one can compare levels of anxiety or fear from one situation to another, because each situation is unique. Each situation likely had very different triggers or circumstances. It isn’t even fair to compare two different allergic reactions, even if it was two of my own reactions. I am always reminded to focus on the present. Not to dwell in the past. I use experiences from the past to help me in my present and in my future, however I do not let it consume me. Allergic reactions I had when I was a child have stayed with me. I remember exactly what happened, the drive to the hospital, and the fear that I might not make it to the hospital.

When I am extremely anxious about my food allergies, or get stressed out in a situation when someone is trying to make me safe food, I feel like I am on an emotional roller coaster. Do you ever feel like that? I can feel calm, confident and collected one minute, then the next, I can be anxious and emotional. I don’t understand it. Someone out there might… I cannot explain it. All I know is that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel scared. It’s ok to be worried. It’s ok to feel emotional, and to shed a few tears. We are all human. We all have emotions. And we all have different triggers.

For those of us with food allergies. We fear a severe reaction. I have always told myself to embrace fear. To not let it overcome me. To use fear and anxiety in a positive way. To use it as a learning experience. When I look back on times when I feared a reaction and was emotional about it, I see the actions I took to make sure I was safe. I give myself a pat on the back for asking questions, for making sure everything was safe. When I am anxious, I tell someone. I don’t go it alone. Sharing the reason for your fear and anxiety with someone is the best thing you can do. So I urge you to please talk to someone when you feel scared. When you feel worried or anxious. You do not have to overcome that fear alone. Talk to your parents, your friend, someone you trust. Together you can figure out ways to manage your feelings and cope. Asking for help takes courage. Please do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone.

I have learned to speak up and ask for help. That is my greatest lesson learned.

Will you ask for help?

Spring time sweets!

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http://www.surfsweets.com/our-candy/spring-mix-jelly-beans/

If you live in Victoria, British Columbia, you know that spring is here! The Cherry Blossoms are in bloom as are many other flowers and trees. Unfortunately for many of us this means our seasonal allergies are starting to ramp up.

Looking for something to brighten your day from all your sneezing and nose blowing? Surf Sweets has a Spring Mix Jelly Beans which includes flavors like Tropical Punch, Lemonade, Watermelon, Mixed Berry, Tangerine and Pineapple! I don’t know about you, but I will be sure to pick up a bag. :)

Surf Sweets are the ONLY candy I eat and here are a few reasons why I love Surf Sweets so much!

  • Free of the 10 Most Common Allergens
  • Made in a Nut-Free Facility 
  • Dairy Free/Casein Free
  • Soy Free
  • Gluten Free