Hosting for friends and family with food allergies – Before the event

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Please share with those that do not have allergies and may be hosting this    holiday season.

Christmas Eve is just 10 days away and many of you may already be on holidays already or very soon. Christmas and New Years is a very busy time of year for parties with friends and family. Holiday parties usually involve some kind of food, whether there is a meal, or h’ourdeuvres. If you are hosting a dinner with family and friends this holiday season, here are a 4 tips for you to ensure your loved ones can have a fun time while feeling safe.

Before I get into the tips, one very important note; COMMUNICATION is KEY! So please do not be afraid to ask questions or share if you feel uncomfortable preparing food for the person with the food allergy/allergies.

  1. Ask if anyone coming to the party has any food allergies. You may not be able to cater the food that is to be served to completely avoid their food allergens, especially if they list is a long one, however it is nice to feel like we are being considered in the planning. The smallest of gestures; like not placing bowls of bulk nuts out because we have a life-threatening food allergy to peanuts and tree nuts means so much to us.
  2. Ask the severity of the allergy. If you are aware of the allergy, and severity, you can discuss the next steps with them. You do not want to find out when you are serving dinner that someone has a life-threatening allergy and
  3. Ask if they plan to bring their own food and let them know that if they prefer to bring their own food that is perfectly OK. I know I often feel uncomfortable bringing my own food to dinner parties, however I always feel better when I know that the hosts or other guests know about my allergies and thus understand why I have my own food.
  4. If they do not plan on bringing their own food, it is up to you, as the host, to discuss with them if you are worried about what you plan to serve or how to make it safe. Perhaps they would like to help in the preparation of the food or can bring a dish that would be safe for them and that others would also like to eat. Maybe they can give you tips about what they can eat which will help put you at ease.

On Wednesday, I will be sharing tips on what to do once you get the list of food allergies or perhaps sensitivities like wheat and gluten. I’ll discuss ways to make your kitchen safe before preparing the food and how to minimize the risk of cross-contamination in your kitchen.

Immunotherapy injections at a walk-in clinic

I have been going to a local walk-in clinic here in Victoria for my dust mite immunotherapy injections as it is more convenient. I can go after dinner so it does not affect my workday. I was hesitant about going to a walk-in because all walk-ins I had ever been to, on more than 20 different occassions had given me the injection at a different place on my arm compared to where my GP and my Allergist gives me the injections.

Now if you do not get allergy injections, the difference in injection site can actually mean a larger reaction, which was always true for me at walk-in clinics. About a month ago I decided i would go to the walk-in. I lucked out! The doctor at the walk-in was very nice, understanding and talked to me about subcutaneous injections. She helped me better understand why some reactions to the injections might be worse than others. I now go for my immunotherapy injections when she is there. Have you found a good doctor at a walk-in?

Wish there were more Christmas parties to go to!

christmas_party

As I mentioned on Friday, we had a busy weekend ahead with two Christmas parties. They were both great fun! For the first, I was very relieved that we had eaten at home before going. It was definitely less awkward/uncomfortable for me as we had both eaten before the party. I am extremely fortunate to have a partner who will skip the meal too, so I don’t feel left out. We headed to the first party on a full stomach which is something I need to do more often so I don’t feel like I am missing out. I was so content with our delicious curried chicken dinner that I didn’t even feel like I was missing out on the wonderful desserts they had. I was glad I hadn’t tried to eat there as it ended up being a Chinese dinner, so I was very happy avoiding the food altogether.

After dinner Santa Claus showed up and each child got a gift! It was a great family oriented party and I made sure to wash my hands after shaking other people’s hands to be sure I wouldn’t have any allergens on my hands. I didn’t touch my face either, or brush hair away, to be sure I didn’t react from a previous handshake or from touching something. For me, it is important that I be cautious, and try to avoid being paranoid, so I take steps to prevent a reaction. We came home safe and sound!

After a good night’s sleep we were headed to the second party which was being held at the University of Victoria, here in Victoria, British Columbia. It was a beautiful location and we were lucky as it wasn’t raining too much. The second party, a Christmas lunch was much smaller than the Friday night one which was nice as I had been able to speak with the kitchen staff prior to the lunch. Once we arrived, we went to the kitchen staff and I introduced myself. They said that they had plates prepared for me and would bring them out the moment everyone else started getting their food from the buffet. They brought me a nice large salad with kale vinegar and oil, as I had asked for to be safe, and a second plate, the entrée, with turkey, steamed potatoes and vegetables. I was relieved when they brought out the 2 plates, as there was no dressing for me to worry about and no sauce on the turkey for me to be concerned about. When I am dining out, I much prefer plain veggies and meat as it’s one less thing I need to worry about. The food was delicious and by the end of it I was stuffed! However the fruit platter they had made me was irresistible, so I ate that too! I had a wonderful time, had no stress and spent a nice afternoon with colleagues.

All and all, a wonderful weekend. I just wish there were more! Unfortunately the other one we had planned to attend was on Friday night, so we couldn’t attend both. Next year, we are keeping our fingers crossed we will be able to attend all of them!

Have you had any Christmas parties yet? If so, how were they? If you haven’t had them yet, what are you doing to prepare for your Christmas party?

 

Public Transit – A challenge for someone with allergies and asthma

Bus

Many people commute to work, school and extra-curricular activities using public transit. And most of which use it on a daily basis as their primary transportation means. It helps us reduce our emissions, our carbon footprint and can have so many other benefits. The bus or metro is often a great time to catch up on some reading, relax and listen to music, or even look out the window and be inspired. Here in Victoria, commuting to work by bus means we are not having to pay extra for parking and can sit and relax on the ride to and from work. Now, there is a catch. Living with severe environmental allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivities, public transit has not always been an option for me. Over four years ago, I started immunotherapy treatments for cats and dogs. Many may think the reason for this would be to enable me to have a pet or have less allergies when I was in someones house who had a dog or cat. Actually, the treatments has served as a means for me to be in public spaces, including public transit.

For some time, If someone who had cat dander on their clothing sat next to me it used to trigger my asthma, and I ended up in the ER on a few occasions. Nowadays, with regular antihistamines and continued immunotherapy, I can take the bus on a regular basis, but it means that there are several mornings when I get to work and my asthma has flared up. And mornings where I have to take antihistamines which make me extremely drowsy and make it very hard to concentrate at work. On the bus, all my worst triggers are present. There is dust, pet dander on people’s clothing, smoke from people who smoke right before getting onto the bus, people with cigarette butts on the bus with them and lots of perfume, cologne, the strong body lotions and creams. For someone like me, with lots of allergies, it is quite something. And it’s a gamble. There is no way of knowing what triggers will be on the bus each day.

Do you or anyone you know take public transit and struggle with environmental allergies, asthma and/or chemical sensitivities? If so, please share your experiences below.

An Educational Video on Food Allergies you will want to be a part of!

Kyle Dine & Friends - Food Allergy Awareness Video's video poster

Many of you either live with severe food allergies or have friends or loved ones who do.

If you would like to help make a difference, this is the one Kickstarter campaign you won’t want to miss out on. With a variety of reward levels all offering great gifts for your support, even $10 CAD will help get this great educational video off the ground and help make it a reality.

Kyle Dine is a great friend of mine and I have worked with him on numerous different projects. He’s toured North America presenting fun educational shows to elementary students. I have backed his project. Will you? :)

Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kyledine/kyle-dine-and-friends-food-allergy-awareness-video?ref=category_popular

A New Job and Labradoodles

The last 3 weeks have flown by. I started a new job back on the 22nd of September and am already into my 4th week with the company. When I started, I made sure to mention my food allergies, sensitivities to fragrances/perfumes. One thing I forgot to ask about, which has worked out great in the end was whether or not it was a pet-friendly office. As it turns out, there are two dogs which are often in the office. When I found out on my first day of work, instead of getting all worked up, the first thing I asked was what breed they were and was told they were Labradoodles – a very hypo-allergenic breed, similar to poodles. I decided to stay calm and see if in fact I reacted to them because poodles hadn’t triggered as severe symptoms as other breeds had for me.

At the end of day one I was extremely excited. I mean it. On the bus ride home I was researching Labradoodles on my phone, curious about the breed. Now some may wonder… why are you excited about not needing antihistamines or inhalers with the dog in the office. Well, for me it was a HUGE win. For those of you who have done immunotherapy before, I considered this as an opportunity for me to build up my tolerance with dogs. Consequently, for me, knowing that I’d be spending lots of time in the same environment as these dogs was an opportunity. I know that’s a crazy way to think about it, however some of you may appreciate my  thinking process.

I did learn that I should write down things I need to bring up so I don’t forget something. It’s amazing all the things someone with asthma and severe allergies – environmental and food, needs to consider when it comes to a new job.

When I saw my allergist recently for my dust mite subcutaneous injection I shared with him the news about the dogs at work and the fact that I hadn’t reacted or needed antihistamines. I felt extremely happy about the situation and almost felt like a kid on their birthday, excited about the presents and friends and relaxed. Has anyone else had experience with a dog in the workplace? Or perhaps have a Labradoodle?

 

 

 

Food Allergies and Anaphylaxis- No Joke

Many of you know that Severe food allergies and Anaphylaxis are no joke. There are still many people out there that do not realize how serious and life-threatening a food that may seem so innocent, like a peanut can be. We need to raise awareness.

Below is yet another sad story of what happens when us severely allergic people ingest these foods and a reminder of how important it is to take every possible precaution possible. When your life is on the line. Be as safe as you can be.

Amy’s nut allergy devastates family and friends

These stories need to be shared. We need to raise awareness that food allergies are no joke.