I’ve overcome my allergies and asthma! Bring on 2017!

I just realized the other day that I hadn’t posted in almost a year and decided it was time to get back into a routine with my posting! So much has happened over the last year. I wanted to update you all and keep you posted on the successes as well as the hurdles I’ve been working through. After 8 years living in Victoria, British Columbia I have moved back to Montreal, Quebec to be closer to family, where I grew up. I’ll catch you all up slowly 🙂

On the allergy front, the past year has been filled with wins.

Firstly, I am thrilled to announce that I am still eating almonds!! It’s been over a year after passing my challenge to almonds, and I must say, having one more source of protein in my life has made all the difference.

Secondly, after 6.5 years of cat and dog immunotherapy, I can be around all dogs without issue and without antihistamines. My body seems to be considering the same for cats though it has not been as accepting of them yet. Emphasis on yet.

During the holidays, I had an exciting win! I tolerated 3 hrs in a house with 3 cats! I had taken some antihistamines and gone for short breathes of fresh air throughout the evening… That being said, I was in a house with cats!?!?! if someone had told me 10 years ago that one day I’d be in the same house as a cat, I’d have told them they were crazy… But they would have been right 🙂 To all those out there feeling hopeless about your pet allergies, I urge you to look into immunotherapy and talk with an allergist. Reducing the severity of my pet allergies has changed my life. Everyone I run into who talks about having to deal with major allergy flare ups when they go to a family members house with a cat or dog, I say, you don’t need to suffer. There are solutions out there. There are advances in the science of allergies and asthma every day and the research is starting to come up with potential solutions to all of this. Please don’t suffer in silence. Ask me questions here if you want, or send me an email and I’ll gladly answer any and all you may have.

Getting control of my allergies has resulted in EXTREMELY controlled asthma. Without changing a thing for my asthma treatment, my lungs are better than ever! Allergies and asthma are a domino effect. Solve one thing, and another will be resolved too.

If there’s any wisdom to share with you all from the last year, I’d share this:

Ask questions and be curious.
Ask for help and never give up.

The answer you’re looking for could be right around the corner!

And most importantly of all… Keep smiling and focus on the positives! Trust me on this one. Focusing on what’s not working the way we like is not the way to go. Think of embracing the challenges you are faced with. Strategize how you might overcome them and who you might engage in your journey to success! And know that it’s ok to have moments where we feel down. I’ve had them too. It’s what makes us human. It’s what we do to get through these moments that shapes us. If you can find the strength and resilience to pick yourself up when you are at your lowest low, you can take on anything life throws your way.

Life’s a journey and we don’t have all the answers. Be open to asking others for help and guidance and you can reach your goals and milestones. I struggled with asking for help. Everything changed when I started asking for help and not feeling like I was burdening others by doing so. At the end of the day, it’ll be up to the people you ask to let you know if they don’t have time or the capacity to help you. To be your best self, one needs to believe that we are never alone. Friends, family, colleagues, medical professionals, people we meet on the ski trails or at a coffee shop. We are surrounded by people who all have their own successes and challenges. Speak up and you’ll get to where you need to go.

Wishing you all the best for 2017 and looking forward to sharing some recipes I’ve been saving up and some more insight with you all on how I’ve overcome my allergies and asthma. You heard that right. I have overcome them because they no longer control my life, I control theirs. 😉 They exist, there are foods I can’t eat and some places I won’t go with a ten foot pole like a pet store, but I’ve got the reins on my life and no one can stop me! Perspective is everything. Watch out, there’s no stopping me now.

In health,
Erika

 

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

erika pic2

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.

When injury, asthma and allergy collide!

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.

A fine balancing act

plane_landing_logo

Finding a balance between jobs, school, rehabilitation from injuries and volunteering, all the while still maintaining a healthy lifestyle can prove challenging at times. Even with many things on my plate, I find time to go for a walk, sit on a bench in the inner harbor to watch the float planes take off and land, or do some art. It CAN be done. Even if you think you don’t have the time. Find the time. Often times the reason I am not posting is because I have too much on my plate, and I am taking some much needed down time.

Like many other chronic conditions, allergies and asthma can add a significant time commitment to your already filled schedule. Reading all the food labels at the grocery store; on cosmetics, beauty or cleaning products, can take a fair bit of time, depending on the allergies you have. When I am looking for new products to use, whether it be; shampoo, conditioner, make-up or other soaps, I need to plan for a good hour or two for label reading, going to different stores if needed, and often, calling manufacturers. My most recent challenge has been to find a new shampoo as I have been getting hives from the one I used for years. It is becoming quite the search… A week later I am still looking.

This can often add more anxiety to our lives. Too much anxiety is not good. What do you do to wind down, relax, take a break? Who helps you to let loose and take some time where you are not thinking about the million things you have to get done?

Fun with friends in a trigger-free environment!

Carol and I

My friends and I had a fun time cross-country skiing the other day. An activity where I do not need to worry about my allergies in the least bit. And with controlled asthma I have even less to worry about. Even though I was only able to go for a short ski due to pain from injuries, I had an AMAZING time! That short ski made my day! Often times, it is the small things in life we need to embrace.

There have been several occasions when I cannot attend an event with friends, because the building the play or event is being held in, is old and dusty. There are also occasions I cannot attend a celebration or potluck dinner because the host has pets. However frustrating those instances can be in the moment, when I look at the big picture, there are many things I CAN do with friends where I don’t need to worry about my allergies. A hiking trip, a picnic on the beach (I make my own food), a bike ride or a walk along the inner harbour to watch the float planes take-off and land. Another one I like is; dinner at our place, where guests bring the wine and we make dinner.

Whenever I invite others into my SAFE & controlled home environment, I need to be sure they are not coming in clothes that are covered in pet dander. I also need to inform them not to wear strong perfumes or deodorants as these will trigger me. Most friends understand and are willing to take action. Friends who have pets will bring clothes fresh out of the dryer to change into when they arrive and avoid wearing perfume or strong smelling deodorants. I used to feel bad listing the precautions friends would need to take, to insure that my safe zone is not breached and I quickly learned that close friends will take the measures they need to, to keep me safe. There are occasions when I have felt like a burden, however I quickly learned that I am NOT a burden. And that I should never think that. Friends and family will listen. You just need to communicate with heart and honesty. Whether they understand how serious it is, or how to take precautions, well, that’s a story for another time…

 

 

A homemade $25 HEPA filter!

HEPA Filter

If you have environmental allergies, you will want to make sure your home is a safe place. Minimizing the triggers in your home is of utmost importance, and it is harder to minimize triggers in an office or in public transit. Having a controlled home environment means that you can come home at the end of the day, to a safe place. Where your body gets some down time and is not exposed to as many triggers. Air purifiers are very good at cleaning the air in your home from those smaller particles that could be triggering you.

HEPA filters can be expensive. They usually range between $100.00 and $800.00 and in some cases, for larger houses, you may need two.

The University of Michigan Health System has come up with a short, informative video that demonstrates how you can make your own homemade filtration unit for approximately $25. I fully intend on making one myself to see how it works!
Click here to view their video…

Another post I have written on dust allergies can be found here:
Dust here, there and everywhere