Better get ready. Fall is just around the corner!

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If you suffer from pollen allergies, you might be on antihistamines right now as summer turns into early fall. When I lived in Montreal, I would get serious allergies every fall, from Ragweed. Spring and fall used to be brutal. I remember years when my father and I were completely out of commission! It was terrible. And on top of the itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing, I’d have my asthma flaring up. Talk about a gong show! People thought I was sick with a cold. Nope. Gotta love allergies and asthma in the fall!

Moving to Victoria, British Columbia, my seasonal allergies changed. It seems like I am not as severely allergic to the pollen out here. What a relief! Or so I thought. One thing about being out in beautiful BC is that the climate is very different. It is damp and humid and that means there is a lot more mold. So every fall, instead of dealing with pollen, I’m trying to keep my body as strong as possible, heading into the damp fall and winter because there is so much mold and it ALWAYS triggers my asthma.

Now the other battle students with asthma face is”back to school” I remember when I was younger, I would be off my asthma medications in the summer and then start up on them as fall approached in anticipation of school starting. With school starting there are so many colds going around and confined environments (classrooms that have been closed all summer) so there is a lot of dust; one of my major triggers. I recall numerous ER visits for my asthma. When I was younger, I had my own nebulizer at home and another at school and fall/winter I was very careful not to miss a treatment. Some days I’d be on the nebulizer three times a day! I am thankful that I haven’t needed regular treatment using a nebulizer in some time.

Do you get triggered in the fall?

Do your seasonal allergies flare-up?

Does your your Asthma flare-up?

The Camping Trilogy: Part 2 – Asthma and Environmental Allergies

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I’ve already shared a post about managing food allergies and this one is about managing your asthma and environmental allergies. A few of these things I hadn’t even thought about for this camping trip, which, I have learned my lessons for next time and will need to plan a little better. This was the first time camping in a long time and that is about to change as I now have the “camping bug”!!

A few things asthmatics need to consider when going camping:

Will you need to borrow camping equipment? 

If you don’t have a tent and air mattress and plan on borrowing camping equipment and have environmental allergies, be sure you find out if there have been any cats, or dogs in the tent. That result of using a tent that may have had a cat or dog inside could ruin your camping trip if your allergies are serious. This could also trigger your asthma which is definitely something you want to try and prevent when at all possible.

Where are you going camping? Is it inland or by the ocean?

We went camping near China Beach which is right by the ocean, and it was EXTREMELY humid so my asthma was worse than normal. We were in the fog cloud and it was the most humid climate I have been in. I was lucky though as I had my inhalers and was able to control my asthma fairly well. It is important to know where you are camping especially if the humidity will be higher than where you live now. Luckily, with camping, you don’t really need to worry about air pollution as camping means going away from the city into nature, away from it all.

What time of the year are you going camping?

This is a really important one! Especially if you have a serious allergy to say ragweed and plan a camping trip in peak ragweed season! Be aware of the peak seasons for your environmental allergies. Out here on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, my asthma usually flares early fall, when the weather flips from beautiful hot summer, to wet, cold fall. I have a serious mold allergy and the mold spores are what make my asthma worse, so I need to plan appropriately.

Will you be hiking a lot?

When I think camping, I associate it with hiking, especially here on the beautiful West Coast! Physical activity in a more humid climate triggers my asthma. It may trigger yours too. If you don’t know whether your asthma may be triggered exercising in a more humid climate, ask your allergist or a doctor ahead of time. This is all part of the planning process.

The nice thing about all this is that once you’ve figured out what makes your asthma worse, you already have a plan to minimize the flare-ups and know how to control your asthma. Camping is sooo much fun and with a little planning you can have a wonderful weekend getaway like we did and not have any worries. That’s the best thing about planning. It’s a lot of work upfront but means that you can actually relax when you are there because you are ready!

I am looking forward to a whole lot more camping and hiking this fall! Will you be camping?

 

 

The Camping Trilogy: Part 1 – Managing Food Allergies

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This weekend Mike and I went camping near China Beach, on Vancouver Island. I have been wanting to go camping for quite sometime however a busy work schedule and chronic pain has limited our ability to go camping until now. However, we were able to have a wonderful weekend with some short hikes along the coast and the beach.

As many of you know, when you have food allergies, asthma and/or environmental allergies, a camping trip requires a fair bit of planning. With all the preparations you need to make, it is easy enough to feel overwhelmed even before you hit the road! However I have found that the easiest way to minimize that overwhelming feeling is to make a to do list, or even a couple different lists.

Tackling the food allergies: I started by making a list of how many breakfasts, lunches and dinners we would need. Then I tried to think of what foods we could have that wouldn’t require too much cooking, so we would have more time to hike and enjoy our time in the outdoors. We planned simple dinners, like gluten free pasta and a homemade sauce (which I made the day before) and decided to have breakfast sandwiches as a nice treat as we don’t have those very often. Having food allergies does not in any way mean you should have to miss out on treats and a fun camping trip! It may require a little more work but I assure you it is worth it!

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Everything we brought was “Erika-friendly” when you are out in the woods with no cell phone reception, it’s important to limit or entirely restrict the chance of an allergic reaction. I ALWAYS trust the Enjoy Life brand with my peanut, tree nut and soy allergies as well as my gluten and dairy sensitivity. So I packed some of their granola and their “no nuts! Fruit and Seed Mix” which we love! I knew that those would be safe. Whenever I travel on a plane or am far from medical care, my golden rule is; “only eat products I have eaten before and trust the company and their labels”. This may seem limiting, however all it means is that you should try things you want to take with you well before you go away. So really in truly, the only difference is no new treats on your trip.

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If you are camping with friends and/or family, it is up to you what you feel most comfortable with. In the past, I have always asked that those I go camping with please not bring foods I am allergic to. To this day, I have not had any disagreements or had anyone argue with me over it, because I have always been 100% honest with them and explained that being so far away from medical care, the chances of cross-contamination were too risky for me. Especially when going out into the back country. It is only a few days, and people who care about your well-being should be willing to discuss this topic and perhaps share some other ideas they have in terms of mitigating the risks. Perhaps you can provide the food and they can each give you some money towards the cost…

What do you do when camping with food allergies? When camping with others, do they bring food you are allergic to?

Stay tuned for:

The Camping Trilogy: Part 2 – Asthma and Environmental Allergies

The Camping Trilogy: Part 3 – Managing Chronic Pain

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.

Which restaurants would you recommend on Vancouver Island?

Hi Erika

We will be vacationing on Vancouver Island this summer. I have a 5 year old son with anaphylactic food allergies to peanuts/some tree nuts/fish/shellfish. I found your site while looking for restaurants that might be food allergy-friendly in the area. Love your site! If you have a minute sometime and are aware of any restaurants in Victoria, Nanaimo or Vancouver that may be allergy conscientious, we would very much appreciate your insight.

Take care,

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

 

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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.