Christmas Parties and Food Allergies

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December 1st has arrived and I keep asking myself where the time has gone. This year has flown by! In any case, December is a fun month filled with Christmas parties, friends, family and lots of joy and laughter. Have you been invited to any Christmas parties this year, or perhaps in the New Year? Are they organized by your work or your partners work? Are they hosted by friends? These are all questions that will often distinguish the approach you take before hand to ensure you can have an enjoyable time without worrying about having an allergic reaction.

Are they organized by your work or your partners work?

Communicating with the person organizing the Christmas party might be very different for each scenario. If your company is hosting, you may be able to speak to the catering staff because the company you work for will want to ensure you are able to eat and have a good time. If the Christmas party is organized by your partners work, you may have to jump through a few more hoops to try and speak to the caterer. I always say that if you don’t get all the answers you need and speak to the people you want to speak to, like catering staff etc. it is much better to simply eat before you go. That is my plan this year.

Are they hosted by friends?

If your friends are hosting a party, you might feel much more comfortable discussing your allergies with them and they may already have your list. You might even be able to help in the food planning as well as in the kitchen. I know for me, if a friend is organizing a party with food, I always see if I can help with the cooking and prep  that way I can ensure I will be able to eat safely. If for some reason you are unable to help with the prep, make sure you feel very safe before you eat anything. If someone else has brought the food and you aren’t certain it is safe, do NOT eat it. Be safe. Do not take chances with life-threatening allergies.

Please tell someone if you feel sick after eating something. Even if you are not sure it is an allergic reaction. It is important that others around you know what is going on especially if you were to react. Safety first.

Best,

Erika

Letter from a mother who lost her son due to a fatal asthma attack at age 3 – An email from the Asthma Society of Canada

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Dear Erika,

The holidays are supposed to be such a happy family time. But they can be heartbreaking when you’ve lost a loved one, especially a child.

We lost our beloved son, Emerson, last December due to a fatal asthma attack. He was only three.

I desperately want to make sure my family’s tragedy doesn’t happen to anyone else. The Asthma Society of Canada is working hard to make that happen.

Erika, please give a gift that really matters this holiday season. Your donation to the Asthma Society of Canada’s Holiday Appeal will ensure that other families receive the information and education they need to recognize signs of the disease and how to prevent a tragedy like ours.

Emerson was such a joy. He was always up for anything and afraid of nothing. Our beautiful boy wanted to be just like his brother, almost two years older than him.

Emerson had his first chest infection at 11 months. He got a ‘puffer,’ which we then used whenever he got a cold or cough. He would use it for two weeks at a time, and it always worked to relieve his cough and chest congestion.

Otherwise, he got the usual coughs and colds, but nothing that seemed unusual. He was a happy and healthy child.

That all changed last December. He caught a cold, and as always with Emerson, it went to his chest. We took him to the urgent care clinic, then a pediatrician, where his puffers were increased, then changed. Over the next two days, he had severe bouts of coughing, sometimes coughing so hard he threw up.

During the night of December 15, he began crying and coughing heavily. He was so wheezy and congested, we decided he needed to go to the Emergency Department. We wondered if he might be having an asthma attack.

Supporters like you have done so much to educate Canadians about the disease through the work of the Asthma Society of Canada. But there’s still more that needs to be done. Thank you for being part of the solution.

At Emergency, they saw Emerson quickly, and gave him three nebulizers (a mask that blows tiny drops of medication deep into his lungs). While receiving them, he was happy and his chest was clear.

The hospital performed an x-ray on his chest and the doctors said there was nothing obvious on them, possibly the beginning of bronchitis. They felt I was doing everything I could at home. Unsatisfied, I planned to call the pediatrician as soon as we got home.

On the way home, Emerson coughed non-stop and kept asking for his puffer. I stopped and gave it to him, but it didn’t help.

If I had known more about asthma, I would have turned right around and gone back to the hospital. I know now that someone who doesn’t respond to the puffers needs to be seen right away.

A few minutes before we got home, Emerson’s coughing stopped. I thought he had fallen asleep in the car, as he had done so many times before.

When I went to get him out of his car seat, Emerson was not breathing. I called 911 and started CPR, but he never came back. The autopsy later confirmed Emerson died from an asthma attack.

Emerson had never suffered an asthma attack before. I think if I had been better educated about the disease, I would not have left the hospital that day. Maybe our sweet little Emerson would still be here.

Our family is not alone in our grief. In Canada, 250 people die from asthma attacks each year. But you can help change that. Please send your generous gift to this Holiday Appeal to ensure other families have happy holidays for many years to come.

 

Thank you,

Sheri Olain

Emerson’s mom

 

Dogs on buses?

What are your thoughts about allowing all dogs on buses? At the moment, here in British Columbia, Canada, only service dogs and animals in kennels are allowed on the bus. BC Transit is considering allowing all dogs on the bus. What are your thoughts about allowing all dogs on buses in BC? Even if you do not live here in BC, what do you think of this idea? Some cities already allow dogs on buses.

Public Transit – A challenge for someone with allergies and asthma

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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.

How do you relieve stress?

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Today marks the start of yet another busy week for me.

Fall always seems to be a really busy time of year for me and along with the busy time comes stress. Stress, as you all know can really impact our health. There are so many ways out there to relieve your stress, whether it be work related, health related, school related or other.

When I am really stressed and running low on sleep, I seem to be more sensitive to environmental triggers and definitely more susceptible to colds. I’ve been fighting a bad cold that flared up my asthma for the last two weeks. For me an easy win, when I am stressed is to get out for a walk, head out to the beach to take some pictures, have a hot bath or do 15 minutes of yoga.

What do you do when you are really stressed. Does your stress impact your health?

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?