The Camping Trilogy: Part 2 – Asthma and Environmental Allergies

Blog 1

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

China Beach 16

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!

Blog 4

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.

Blog 3

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

BC Summer Games – A Memorable Experience

A month ago I was preparing my meal plan, food, and all our zone athletes for BC Summer Games. Time sure has flown! Preparing for the Games with my allergies was a tough one, 4 days and 3 nights of food to fit in a cooler and wasn’t sure if I’d have access to a microwave for dinner so my meals were simple. Though I had the same food every day I enjoyed every meal. My homemade food was really good, hard boiled eggs and fruit for breakfasts, gluten free sandwich with chicken I cooked before leaving, cherries and peaches for an afternoon snack and then turkey stew for dinner. After a busy day of coaching I didn’t even mind cold stew!

I had a really wonderful experience, my pain was well managed and I took antihistamines for my allergies. My asthma did flare up, due to the fact that we were sleeping on the floor of a school which had been closed for a month, however my rescue inhaler and antihistamines helped create relief from the regular flare ups. Even though it was a whole lot of work, organizing food – where to keep the food while we stayed at a school and also managing allergies, asthma and pain, it was an experience I will definitely repeat! Loved the atmosphere! Even though there were many hurdles/challenges I overcame them and came out stronger and also more patient as a result!

I truly love being a sprint kayak/canoe coach because I get the opportunity to support youth who are really keen and determined.

Over and out for now!!! :)

Here we go!

I’m on the bus heading to the BC Summer Games with my athletes! It’s actually a beautiful ride with the sun rising.

image

Cooler is packed for 4 days away from home! Breakfasts consist of hard boiled eggs and fruit, lunches will be chicken/lettuce sandwich with avocado and some carrot/celery sticks and cherries as my snacking food. Lastly, I’ve got turkey stew for dinners! Who said being away from home for 4 days had to mean I wouldn’t eat good food?! It can be a whole lot of work to organize, but I am soo happy I know what I will be eating and don’t have to worry about that whole portion of the Games!

I can now focus on my athletes and not worry about having a reaction. Let the Games begin!

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.

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…