Hosting for friends and family with food allergies – Preparing the food

Salad Raspberry

Are you hosting a holiday party and know that you will have guests with food allergies and/or sensitivities like gluten? Do you have food allergies and/or sensitivities? If you don’t, you may be nervous about preparing the food safely.

Once you have done the meal planning and grocery shopping and are ready to start prepping and making the food you make sure you pay careful attention to ingredient labels and avoid cross-contamination.

  1. Re-read ingredient labels Even if you have already read the ingredient list on items when you were in the grocery store, re-read them at least two more times before using the product. Be very very meticulous when reading over ingredients. You will want to look on each side of the package to make sure they have not listed a “may contain” label somewhere else on the package. Unfortunately, some manufacturers do not write may contain labels near the actual ingredient list. Know the ingredients. There is no “overly cautious” here. It’s important to be 100% certain that the items you use are safe for guests with food allergies. I’d recommend you keep the wrapper or box or cut out the ingredients so your guest can re-read the ingredients too. I trust friends and family to prepare food for me, however I always  re-read ingredient labels even if you are told it is safe.
  2. Be extremely cautious of cross-contamination   If you will be preparing some food which your guest is allergic or sensitive to make a plan before you start cooking of which utensils you will use for which foods. In making a plan before you start preparing and cooking, it will help you be more aware and reduce the risk that you end up using utensils that you prepared unsafe food with to prepare the allergy safe food. Make sure the cutting board is clean and the surface you plan to work on as well. I often recommend preparing the food for the guest with food allergies on plates as that surface is definitely safer than a cutting board which, especially if plastic may have residues from previous unsafe ingredients. Use your best judgement and if you are ever unsure, pick up the phone and call the guest or parent of the guest.  Communication is always key!

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?

Christmas Party weekend!

It is going to be a busy weekend for us with two Christmas parties! I’m looking forward to it. I am feeling very safe about eating at one of the two parties as I had a meeting with the caterer and instead of the buffet, they are making me my own plates! We went over each dish and discussed my allergies in great detail. However we have decided to eat before going to the other one to be safe, as I didn’t have a chance to speak to caterers for that one in time. Yes it may be a little awkward not eating while every one else will be however I won’t be alone not eating the dinner. We’ve made delicious curried chicken that we will eat before heading to the party, so we will have had a nice dinner before we go. I am looking forward to a safe night, good conversation, new connections and an evening out.

Have you ever gone to a Christmas party and not been able to eat? If so, did you eat before going? How was the party?

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend! I’ll post on Monday after a busy weekend. :)

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

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!

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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

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!!! :)