Juggling food allergies, environmental allergies and asthma while in a high responsibility role – BC Summer Games

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It’s Tuesday morning and I am working on my to do list for the BC Summer Games. My emotions are very mixed. I am excited to be going to the Games and have been selected as head coach, however I am anxious about my food/environmental allergies, asthma and chronic pain I am dealing with. As head coach for our zone in Canoe/Kayak I have a lot of responsibility during the Games, but also prior to the Games. I have 12 athletes to get organized and make sure they all meet at the same place and time on Day 1. I’ve spent most of yesterday dealing with last minute registration issues and emailing parents and finally today, have some time to do my own work and get myself ready for this 4 day affair!

I have to prepare my food for 3 meals a day over 4 days where I won’t be able to prepare anything. I’ll have access to a microwave and that’s it. The schedule is pretty busy too, so won’t be able to go to the grocery store for food. So this is the challenge. It reminds me of the training camps I used to have when I was a competitive cross-country ski athlete, that were 3-4 days. Except I also am responsible for 12 other people now, so it is a little different…

You see, on Thursday morning I’ll be getting up at 3 am and my wonderful boyfriend will be driving me to the chartered bus pick-up location for 4:20 am! Yeah, that’s really really early! I am lucky to have a partner willing to drive me that early in the morning! We’ll be sleeping in a school, so I also need to make sure I have full asthma inhalers and lots of antihistamines at the ready.

This may be the last post for a little while because I don’t foresee much time to post while at the event. I’ll definitely be sharing my experience after the fact.

Allergies, Asthma, Chronic Pain and BC Summer Games!

BC Games

I am finally writing again. I’ve had a very busy spring and am headed into an even busier summer. I have been busy with work volunteering with Anaphylaxis Canada’s new “Allergy Pals” peer mentoring program and was recently chosen to be Canoe/Kayak Head Coach for Vancouver Island Zone for BC Summer Games which will be held in Nanaimo this year. It’s made me go from “busy” to “insanely busy” as this volunteer position with BC Summer Games has me organizing/running training camps and getting the team prepared all the while keeping parents informed.

When I applied to be a coach for the Summer Games, I didn’t worry about my food/environmental allergies, asthma or chronic pain one bit. I was just really excited about the possibility of being a part of the BC Games as I attended Quebec Winter Games as an athlete and loved it!

Now that I am officially the Zone coach and the games are only 32 days away I feel like I have so many mixed emotions around it. I am excited, happy for the new adventure, confident about my abilities, though I am also extremely anxious… I am anxious about how I will manage my food/environmental allergies, asthma and chronic pain. If you have allergies, asthma and/or chronic pain, you know that a few days away is not always that simple. It depends where you are going. Here’s what I am headed into… See if you can imagine what this will look like.

Food: Uncertain of how it will be served. They mention people with food allergies will receive their own plate at each meal…
Transportation: By bus with the local athletes from various sports
Accommodations: Sleeping on the floor in a school for 3 nights

We will be leaving home on a Thursday morning and returning on a Sunday. Ultimately, this means 4 days of food that I need to somehow prepare because with all my life-threatening food allergies and other dietary restrictions, there is no way I am going to risk having a reaction or getting sick while I am in charge of 15-17 athletes! Now, while riding on games transportation we can only bring one suitcase and a sleeping bag… As the bus will be full! That’s when I consider myself VERY lucky that some of the athlete’s parents will be attending the games and be driving there. My plan will be to find a spot for a cooler and a place to keep my food… Still working on that. One thing is for certain! I will have at least 2 EpiPens on me at all times.

Food allergies aside, my next hurdle becomes my environmental allergies. I have had serious asthma attacks on buses before which lead me to the emergency room due to pet dander, smoke and/or perfume on people. Imagine a full bus. I will have to be extremely careful and prepare for the 2 hr bus ride by taking extra anti-histamines and preparing my lungs ahead of the departure day. For me, this will mean upping my medication as prescribed by my doctor, to ensure my lungs are in the best condition possible. I will also need to make sure I have a new rescue inhaler and it is not expired as that would be the worst thing that could happen. Now, environmental allergies and the bus is one thing, however my even bigger concern is sleeping on a floor in the school.

My most serious environmental allergies which trigger asthma attacks fairly frequently nowadays are dust mites and cat/dog dander. I think it is fair to assume there will be significantly more dust on the floor in a school than there is in my extremely safe allergy-friendly home which we vacuum with a high quality vacuum that has Hepa filters built into it. I will definitely be carrying a lot of antihistamines for this trip! Thinking through all of these scenarios ahead of time becomes the first of my planning steps. The last thing I would want is to be having a reaction and not have enough antihistamines or not have the right ones.

Now, last but not least is the chronic pain. I know it is not allergies or asthma, however it is a fairly big part of my life. If I have a hard time sleeping on my comfy bed at home… I’m a little concerned about how my pain will be affected with the sleeping accommodations at the Games. That being said, I have already found an inflatable mattress I can borrow, to ensure I can get some sleep while I am there. In my “before the games” plan which I have written down that I need to have all my pain medications from the pharmacy as well as all my allergy asthma medications.

All in all, the Games are going to be a wonderful experience! I am so excited that I get to be a part of it! I will have to work on that flash mob dance though… :) Being busy seems to be my thing. The most important thing I have learned about being busy is to make sure I have a plan, because with allergies and asthma and chronic pain, I always need to be prepared and on my game!

 

Spring is here!

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For many of us, spring can be a time we do not look forward to… Everything is in bloom… There is pollen everywhere!! Here in Victoria, British Columbia everything is flowering. I have been pretty lucky… knock on wood. Since moving out here in 2008, I haven’t had terrible seasonal allergies. I’ll get a runny nose and some sneezing here and there, however it is nowhere near the symptoms I dealt with in the spring and fall when I lived in Montreal, Quebec! My oh my! I do not miss those days… Not one bit.

In my teenage years, I worked with my father in the family company, doing weekly maintenance of swimming pools. Each morning, we’d leave with our “allergy kit” for a day of work outside. This kit included tons of tissues, various antihistamines and eye drops and nose drops. During prime time allergy season, my dad and I were a mess. Driving together in the pick up truck, we’d be sneezing like there was no tomorrow! You could here us from a mile away! The worst thing for me was that it would flare up my asthma pretty bad. And that was the hardest part for me. We had a hard time as there wasn’t one antihistamines that worked for us all the time. We were constantly trying new ones, trying to find one that would work for us, to no avail.

When I moved out here, it was like a mini vacation. I’ve had scratch tests done and I do not react to any of the pollen out here. Hurray! With all my other allergies, it’s nice to not have to deal with seasonal allergies too.

For all those out there with serious seasonal allergies, an allergist can help you come up with the proper plan and one option is immunotherapy. I have been taking immunotherapy for 3.5 years now for cats, dogs and dust mites and it has made a world of difference! Black and white really! Back then when I started I couldn’t even take public transit due to pet dander on people’s clothing… nor could I go to a coffee shop or even attend classes at UVic, let alone actually go into a house with a dog (even on antihistamines)! Now, I can go to certain people’s houses, mainly ones with poodles, but also my family home, where there are two dogs!

I say that if immunotherapy can make such a HUGE difference for me with cats and dogs, I am fairly certain it has the potential for great relief to all you seasonal allergy sufferers out there! So schedule a visit with your allergist and ask them about immunotherapy :) It works :)

A safe and relaxing Valentine’s Day weekend away from home

 

Ocean Trails sign

On Friday afternoon, my partner and I headed up island for a weekend away. A wonderful birthday gift from family. We stayed at Ocean Trails Resort. The place we stayed in had a full kitchen which was great. We packed up a cooler full of food from home and grabbed safe utensils (as I do not feel particularly safe using plastic utensils that have been used to cook things I would likely be allergic to). It is always great to bring our own food as I feel extremely safe and don’t have any worries about the weekend. I can fully relax knowing that all the food we brought is safe and there is no chance of a reaction, especially considering the fact that everything we made had no processed foods in it, just vegetables, meat and rice. Safe as can be!

Before we booked the suite for the weekend, I called and made sure to ask whether the suites were pet-free and non smoking. They had assured me of both. When we went to the front desk to check in on Friday evening, I was extremely excited to see they had a sign which clearly stated their allergy policy:

allegy signSeeing this sign was a huge relief and sparked a conversation with the receptionist who explained that they understand how sensitive people can be with pets and smoke and know that pet dander can stay on furniture and in the carpet for a long time.

It was the first weekend away from home EVER I have not had to take any benadryl or other antihistamines! The place was spotless, buildings were newer and there were lots of windows we could open for some fresh air. No itchy eyes, scratchy throat or asthma attacks. It was truly wonderful.

If you are looking for a pet-free place to stay on the island, with a well equipped kitchen and fireplace, I highly recommend visiting them for a weekend, or perhaps even longer! We will definitely be going back there. :)

Thank you Ocean Trails Resort for a weekend we will remember! Conveniently located right next to Rathtrevor Beach, which we went to today, though it was very wet and windy.

Denied the right to carry an inhaler on their person.

If your child is in school and has asthma, are they allowed to carry their inhaler on their person at all times? When I was in elementary school and high school in Quebec, I was. There were never any questions asked…

If you have not yet heard the story of a young Ontario boy who lost his life Oct. 9th, 2012 due to a severe asthma attack, you need to read this story. I am still shocked that some schools wouldn’t allow youth with asthma and prescribed inhalers to carry them at all times. Ryan’s mother, Sandra Gibbons is taking a stand and wants to ensure what happened to her son does not happen to another child.

Read here: Ontario Mom Urges Schools to let Asthmatic Kids Carry Puffers

 

When injury, asthma and allergy collide! Part 1 of 2

Crutches

You may be asking yourself how injuries, asthma and allergies relate…or perhaps you have already had a few experiences of your own, where these three factors have been at play…

I’ll start by saying that I’m a young adult who LOVES to be active and living with pain from an accident I was in 3 yrs ago has been challenging enough. Now if you’ve ever been injured, you know how tricky it can be both mentally and physically. It can be especially tricky mentally, when you are used to being active, and all of a sudden are either home with your ankle, leg etc. in a cast, or dealing with another injury, which limits and often entirely prevents you from doing almost all sports and activities, even walking.

Now, there’s good news for most of us… And that good news is that more commonly than not the injury is a sprain, break or other injury that will take a few months, or perhaps a year to heal and then we can start getting active again. Slowly at first of course. Alternatively, the injury is such that the pain you are dealing with is like a roller coaster, where some days are better than others. You are up and down, and often somewhere in between your high and low.

Soo… being lucky enough to have an activity that I CAN do, to stay active and strengthen means that nothing can get in my way from doing the activity. For me, it is swimming. Now, I swam back in high school, and always seemed to get sick and struggled with asthma, due to the chlorine in the pool. As  result, I was only on swim team for a season, and then I opted for another intramural.

Swimming on a regular basis, means that I need to be extra cautious about managing my asthma and allergies. Taking my controller medication morning and night for the asthma is a HUGE priority for me and I never miss a dose. Aside from ensuring my asthma is well controlled so the chlorine does not trigger me, I am getting lots of rest, to ensure my body is in top shape in case I get a cold. The last thing I need is to get really sick and not be able to swim, because my allergies and asthma have flared up! I also make sure my skin is well taken care of, so it doesn’t not break out into a rash or hives due to the chlorine.

It is thus extremely important to stay on top of your asthma and allergies, ESPECIALLY if swimming is your rehab therapy for an injury, because if you get triggered, well, your rehab therapy might be on the line.

There you have it.

Injuries + Allergies = The need to be extremely proactive.

Have you ever struggled with injury all the while trying to manage your asthma and allergies which were being directly affected?

What strategies did you come up with?

 

“Defining allergy fact from fiction”

I’ve been busy lately, and am trying to organize my routine, so I can still have time to post and share interesting articles and research I come across with you, my readers.

Nowadays, there is so much information on the internet that it can often feel like you need to sift through fact and fiction or myth and reality. I always say to go with what you hear straight from a board-certified allergist and/or physician. Who knows what the real source is on the internet. I know if I have questions, whether it be about contact skin reactions, food reactions, potential allergic reactions to medications, I go to my allergist, and if he’s not available, then I’ll run it by my physician. And then, once they’ve diagnosed, or explained it to me, yes, I may do an internet search to see if others are living with the same challenges, because it’s nice to not feel alone.

I hope the following article will help you see some fact on a few topics you or perhaps someone you know believed, and in the end is fiction.

Defining allergy fact from fiction” – Press Release from American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology

What was the biggest “Ah ha!” of this article, that you perhaps wish your friends or family read, so they would see that it is “just a myth”.

For me it is hands down #5; “I’m Allergic to Cats and Dogs, but Can Have a Hypoallergenic Breed”. So many people say “oh, it’s a poodle, you won’t be allergic”… actually, yes, I am.