Conferences, events, and hotel food

sorbet

If you are living with life threatening food allergies, you have likely attended a conference or other catered event. Whether the event was a wedding, a holiday party or perhaps a conference, having a safe meal, or multiple safe meals can be challenging. Have you had an exceptional and memorable experience with hotel staff, or catering staff? Have you ever had an experience that may have resulted in a reaction?

I have attended numerous conferences and catered events, for all different occasions and each one has taught me a new tip and raised my awareness a notch.  A few action items I HIGHLY recommend are:

1. Provide a list of ALL your allergies prior to the event (either to event staff, or hotel management)

2. Before the first meal, ask to speak to the “Maitre D” or Kitchen Manager/Head Chef

3. If you genuinely don’t feel comfortable eating from the buffet, then do NOT hesitate to tell them. Tell them you would feel much safer having a separate plate for each meal. They should understand that.

Just because you have food allergies or food sensitivities, like I do, to gluten or dairy, it doesn’t mean you need to miss out on good food and dining! Live the conference, wedding or other event to the fullest while enjoying tasty food just like your friends or colleagues! Speak up! :)

I used to keep quiet and not eat very well. Now, I often eat better than others at the conferences. Some managers have even brought me meals personally! AND placed the napkin on my lap and pushed my chair in! While others were getting their own food from the buffet! Don’t get down because you have food allergies. Don’t let having food allergies be “unfair” they don’t have to be! Trust me on this one!

 

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.

“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.

Hotel stays… Not always exciting for us folks with allergies and asthma

hotels

It’s all in the title. This coming weekend I am taking some kayak athletes to an out of town race. What this means is that we will be staying in a hotel for 2 nights… As there weren’t many options to choose from in this town, this place was our best bet. Coincidentally, they allow pets. Now if you have environmental allergies as severe as mine, it’s a little worrisome.

Yesterday I called the hotel and asked my “slew” of questions… I was lucky to have a receptionist who was not flustered by all my questions and was helpful. It went something like this… (not verbatim)

Me: Hi, I will be staying at your hotel this coming weekend and have a few questions for you as I have severe allergies, especially to pets.

Reception: Ok, sure, go ahead.

Me: Well, it says that you allow pets, is that correct? 

Reception: Yes

Me: As I am extremely allergic to pets, I am wondering whether you can guarantee that the room I stay in has not had a pet in it. 

Reception: Well, we generally don’t have pets above the 1st floor. And it looks like the room you reserved will be on the second floor. When you arrive, you can go to the room and if it affects you, we can move you to another room.

Me: Ok, thank you.

Me: All rooms are non-smoking, correct? 

Reception: Yes

Me: Are there windows or patios in the rooms? And if windows, can they be opened?

Reception: No patios, there are windows that can be opened.

Me: Thank you so much, umm, just one more question… Can you please make a I am extremely sensitive to cleaning products and such. Is it possible to have them use less scented products for cleaning our room prior to arrival and not spray any air fresheners or other products in the room, as I am extremely allergic.

Reception: I cannot confirm that now. I would recommend you call on thursday morning, prior to your arrival to confirm your allergies with the reception as it will be closer to the date. They should be able to accommodate.

Me: Ok, thank you very much. I appreciate all your help. It is tricky traveling with allergies. I am also wondering if there is a fridge in the room.

Reception: You are welcome, I can only imagine. Yes, there is a mini-fridge in all rooms. Is there anything else I can help you with today?

Me: No, you have answered all my questions. Thanks you again. Have a nice day.

Reception: You too.

Though the answers did make me feel better, I am still a little hesitant about the hotel and will be sure to take all my antihistamines and asthma inhalers with me. I will likely bring a few masks just in case there is no other option. Thursday morning, first thing, I’ll be calling them back.

Have you ever had a conversation like that with hotel reception? Have they been helpful or did they not really understand? My questions about the patio are the result of a bad experience two weekends ago, when all rooms in the hotel had patios. Though the hotel is non-smoking, there had definitely been people smoking on the patio in the first room we checked into as my asthma was triggered almost instantly upon walking into the room. After talking to the receptionist about the room, she moved us into another room (upgrade) and I was symptom free! Thinking back, had we stayed in that first room overnight, my asthma would have flared up and I would have been sick and miserable. I am so glad my boyfriend convinced me to go to the reception right away. Yes, even I sometimes try to settle because I feel like I may be “annoying” about my allergies. I am so lucky to have someone to help me keep my game on. When it comes to health, it’s not worth the risk! Step up and speak up. I’m good at this, but sometimes I slip. Luckily this time when I slipped I had someone to catch me. :)

Travel safe!!

How has your dad supported you?

Erika and Dad

Today I’d like to dedicate my post to my father. An amazing man who has been there every step of the way. He’s always stood by me, whether it be in -30 degrees or + 30 degrees! My dad has been my rock. Living with food allergies and asthma, there are ups and there are downs. As a teenager, my dream was to make it to the Olympics one day and to race internationally, in cross-country skiing! My family and friends were always extremely supportive and I am extremely fortunate.

Winters were always EXTREMELY busy, with races pretty much every weekend when I was at the more competitive levels. My dad and I were constantly away. We were a two man team a lot of the time, he would wax my skis and I would race my heart out. When I was in competitive sport, I never felt sad about my food allergies, or frustrated about my asthma. My dad would remind me to take my inhalers 30 minutes prior to my race and within a few minutes of my start as prescribed by my doctor. And he would have safe snacks for me after my race when I was needing energy! Together we made a terrific team! My dad would give me pep talks before each race and help me ease my nerves leading up to larger races. I loved hearing about how in the wax hut he had heard of a new trick to make my skis even faster, and other tips he’d gotten from other coaches or parents.

K0sk1n2d3 St4rt

He was always on the sidelines cheering me on and he was always there to cover me in a blanket or bring me my coat after the race.

My dad has always known how to enjoy the moment. We’ve had some fairly competitive races around the tracks and I will never forget those! Our family seems to get really competitive in Go Karts! I love it! :)

G0 K1rtsG0 K1rts 2rik3

In the summer it was cross-training in sprint kayak and training camps. He was always driving me around, just like the cross-country skiing races. I am fortunate to have a dad who goes out of his way to make things work, to find a solution and to keep us all smiling. So thank you dad. Thank you for being there for me every step of the way.

What are some of the greatest things your dad has done for you? Or perhaps moments you will always remember…

 

A weekend of safe meals away from home!

Salad Raspberry

This past weekend, I felt extremely safe with all my meals, even though I was far from home! The conference I attended was held at Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute. The kitchen staff had been provided a list of all my allergies by the conference organizers prior to the conference. Meals were buffet style for starters and breakfasts, and plated for the main meals. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, I would mention to a waitress that I was the one with multiple food allergies. They would nod, tell me to have a seat and shortly after, one of the kitchen managers would bring my plate out to me. The food was great and the staffs attention to my allergies and full understanding and appreciation of the severity of them was one of a kind.

Steak Dinner

Each meal, I felt included. My meals were almost identical to everyone else’s plates! They did a wonderful job at every meal. They even had a sorbet for me and a nice strawberry and mint fruit cup.

I had dessert with every dinner! A real treat :)

DessertSorbet

Thank you Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute for such wonderful service. The staff were friendly and always smiling! Good safe food, attentive staff, a beautiful venue with squash, tennis and basketball courts, indoor and outdoor pool, an indoor running track and walking trails makes this Centre the perfect getaway!!!

If you are looking for a place to stay somewhere near Toronto I HIGHLY recommend a visit! The staff will take great care of you.

For food allergy and environmental allergy accommodations, I rate them as a 10/10.

 

A good night’s sleep ahead!

hotels

Tonight I am staying at the Kingbridge Conference Centre & Institute for a conference. Upon arrival I had a few questions I asked the hotel staff to ensure I would have a good night’s sleep, and a safe stay. I asked whether the hotel was entirely pet-free, and whether or not there were windows in the room. Lucky for me, no pets, and large doors instead of windows! We’ve had the door open ever since we arrived and the room is less stuffy and my allergies are not too bad, in comparison to other hotels I’ve stayed at. The staff have been EXTREMELY accommodating with my allergies and have made my first day here a success.

hotel_window

These are a few questions I normally ask when I first call in and book a hotel.

  • Do you allow pets in the hotel? Are there rooms that have never had a pet?
  • Do the windows open in the rooms?
  • I have severe allergies to cleaning products and chemicals/perfumes. Can you please have them no spray any perfumes or use other scented fragrances and possibly clean the room with a mild cleaning agent, or vinegar?
Often times I’ve “shopped around” if there are no windows or patio doors that open. When I arrive to check-in, there is usually special attention given and on several occasions, I have had a note from managers sitting on the desk when I entered the room. 
Have you ever stayed in a hotel? When you are planning a trip or heading to a conference, what do you do beforehand?
Tonight is bound to be a good night of sleep! Time to call it a day. :)