Spring is here!

IMG_0691

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.

A busy summer is winding down…

plane_landing_logo

Yeepers! For the last few weeks I’ve been telling myself it’s time for a new post, however it’s been very hectic over the summer. This morning I was surprised to see that my last post was July 3rd! I guess it has been quite some time…

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer! Our summer in Victoria British Columbia has been quite a nice one! We had a whole lot of sun which was wonderful. As a kayak coach, I was lucky enough to spend a good part of the summer on the water in a coach boat. A real treat. What was your summer like? Any family vacations or camping trips? This summer I’ve been dealing with injuries and it’s meant that I wasn’t as active as I would have liked to be, however I’m hoping next summer can make up for this one, with hiking, rock climbing, kayaking and camping trips.

One of the major highlights of my summer was a visit from a family in Calgary who has a child with severe food allergies, which, I met through this very blog! They had read my blog early in may and had reached out to me asking if I had any tips on things to do in Vancouver or Victoria, restaurants that were allergy conscious and safe and places to stay. We corresponded for 2 months and the family decoded they were Victoria bound! I was extremely excited to meet one of my readers and supporters from Calgary!

Combining two busy schedules was tricky, however we managed to spend their last afternoon in town together out on the water! We took the kids out for some kayaking and canoeing. It was so inspirational for me to meet a reader who so strongly believed in what I write and who I aspire to be. To meet her family was wonderful. It was almost magical. We had only corresponded by email, yet it felt like I already knew them . They were my friends. It was an experience like no other. I look forward to the next time we will meet! Perhaps I’ll visit Calgary next. :)

Though this summer has been a busy one, it has been a great one. I have spent much more time focusing on me and trying to overcome injuries and other health challenges. My asthma symptoms have also been significantly better over the last 2 months which is extremely exciting! Throughout this busy time, the two things I never skipped were my immunotherapy treatments. Both sublingual and subcutaneous, as they have continued to make a HUGE difference in my allergies and asthma and I know that skipping them will make my allergies and asthma worse. Immunotherapy is one of my biggest health priorities! What is your biggest health priority?

 

 

 

Would you happen to have any recommendations please?

Hi Erika.

How are you?

From a Google search, I see that you are living in Victoria with food allergies. I started my research into safe places to stay, visit, and dine either in Victoria or Vancouver. My daughter is allergic to peanuts and chickpeas (and possibly other legumes that are yet unconfirmed).

We are planning to finally see some of your beautiful province of BC this summer (either July or August).

Would you happen to have any recommendations please? Any hotels, restaurants, activities that stand out to you as being extremely accommodating to those with life-threatening allergies? We’re actually think we might be safest in a hotel with a kitchenette so we could stock some safe foods; however, it would be nice to have a true vacation and get away from most, if not all, cooking. :)

Any suggestions or leads you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you in advance, and best wishes! I really like your website.

——————————————————————————————————————–

Hi,

Ok, here are a few starters for restaurants in Victoria, BC

The Old Spaghetti Factory – Also in Vancouver… I have eaten here numerous times. The kitchen manager and staff in Victoria are well trained with allergies and take special precautions. I believe the only nuts they have are almonds which are in one of their salads and a pesto plate. If you ask to speak to the manager, they will accommodate for you.

Bard & Banker – They are extremely understanding of food allergies and take it seriously. I believe the manager has a child with allergies, and the staff is well aware. Calling ahead is great. If you look at the menu ahead of time and call them to explain the allergies, what your daughter might like to order, they will make a special plate for her.

My blog post: Hands down best attention from restaurant staff yet! Bard & Banker is the place to go with food allergies

Cabin 12 – Does manly breakfasts and lunches and they were “Allergy Aware”

Fifth Street Bar and Grill - I was planning a christmas event here and they seemed understanding of my allergies and willing to work with me. I have not eaten here though. We had our party elsewhere.

Whitespot – Have eaten here on multiple occasions. I always ask for the manager and discuss my allergies and they have a whole allergy binder too! With which foods contain what allergens.

—————————-

A really good bakery, that is entirely peanut free (caution, they do use other nuts) is:

Broadmead Bakery & Comments from others

—————————–

As for activities, there is the museum and IMAX theatre here in victoria, double decker tour buses, sea kayak excursions or rentals, paddle board rentals, and several nice beaches. There are also a lot of parks to visit, for hikes and a day at the lake.

I can come up with more places to eat and places to stay. I need to call it a night though.

I will come back to you with more tomorrow.

If you would like me to assist you with organizing your trip further than the brief suggestions I will be providing you; speaking to the restaurant staff before you visit and finding fun, safe activities to do, let me know.

Sincerely,
Erika

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?

Hands down best attention from restaurant staff yet! Bard & Banker is the place to go with food allergies

Bard & Banker

Bard & Banker Restaurant, Victoria, BC

My birthday is Saturday and with allergies, I always struggle what to do for my birthday as I often feel uncomfortable speaking to the waiter or waitress when I am with a big group of friends. I called up a restaurant (Bard & Banker) I had eaten at in the past and had a safe meal and made a reservation. After she confirmed they had the table space I said; “I also have severe, life-threatening food allergies and was hoping I could speak to the manager or chef”. The reply I got absolutely surprised me! Though it was a REALLY great surprise! She said; “Right, are you still allergic to peanuts, nuts, soy, lentils and sensitive to the gluten and dairy?”.

Turns out they had kept my allergies on file for the next time I would visit! I was smiling ear to ear. I said yes and she finished by saying they would take precautions when preparing my birthday dinner. I hung up the phone and took a nice deep breathe and smiled some more. My worrying about dinner with my friends was no longer the same.

Literally 2 minutes later the phone rings… A call from the Bard & Banker. I am asked whether I know what I will want to eat on Saturday night, so they can take the extra precautions to prepare my meal separately to prevent cross-contamination! WOW! I have never heard a restaurant ask that before. My smile was back and the weight I felt on my shoulders lifted. I was definitely feeling relieved and ready to celebrate my birthday. I can’t wait for Saturday! My allergies will not affect the good times we will have. :)

Have you had an experience similar to this that you want to share? What restaurants do you feel the most safe at? How do you rate the safest to least safe restaurants for you or your child? Is it by attention and precautions taken by the restaurant staff? A safe meal? Or by what they have in the kitchen?

Victoria Allergy and Asthma Fair! A success.

Today was the Allergy and Asthma Fair organized by “Protecting Anaphylactic Children Today“. There was a great turnout to this event held at the Esquimalt Recreation Center this afternoon. There were speakers as well as several booths set up with resources and treats. Sara Shannon spoke as well as a Ministry of Health 811 Dietician and an Ambulance Paramedic.

Some of the local companies included Crumsby’s Cupcake Cafe, The Market on Millstream and The Market on Yates, Dare Foods, Epicure Selections.

Many of us challenged each other with our spirometry results which was great fun, all thanks to the VIHA Respiratory Health team!

The information booths included:

Allergies Abroad
Health Canada
Asthma Society of Canada & National Asthma Patient Alliance
Allergic Living Magazine
Anaphylaxis Canada
Allergy/Asthma Information Association (AAIA)

If you joined us today, what did you think? Did you return home with some new resources and perhaps new ideas on how to manage either your allergies and/or a loved ones?

Feel free to share comments here!