“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!!

Allergies and Language Barriers

Have you encountered a situation when you are unable to communicate your allergies and their severity due to an obvious language barrier? Perhaps you have traveled to a different country where they spoke primarily french, portugese, spanish or another language you may not be very familiar with. How have you dealt with these situations. Have you trusted them when they said that your food would be safe? Have you trusted the hotel staff who seemed convinced no animal had ever been in the room? Do you try and learn some phrases before your trip if you know that your language may not be spoken where you are going?

One trick my parents and I came up with a few years ago was to have someone translate a few key phrases and words for us and write them all on separate pieces of paper for us. When we went to the Dominican Republic years ago, we at least 3 different notes in spanish that we could give to the chef for assistance. One would say: “hello, my name is Erika and I have SEVERE, life-threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, …” another said “can you please help me find something safe to eat?” and the notes went on. I found it extremely helpful to have everything written down, because I didn’t have to worry about not saying something correctly, or mispronouncing it. I felt safe, knowing the chef had very specific messages. The chef on this particular trip was awesome. He did not speak a word of English, though he would nod or shake his head when pointing at items in the buffet, to express whether I could eat it or not.

I find it truly amazing how despite talking, gestures and written communication can be a very successful means of expressing thoughts.

Are there times you have found it impossible to communicate your allergies? Maybe when eating out, or renting a room at a hotel, when you are asking them about cleaning products they use and their pet regulations… How have you felt in those situations? What have you done? Do your friends or family try and assist?

My thought on this topic is to try and have a few phrases in the languages of the place you know you will be visiting. If you live in British Columbia or any other province or territory.. and will be visiting Quebec, don’t worry, there is English and French, though it does not hurt to go prepared, with a few notes and phrases!

Who knows about your Epipen?

If you have severe, life-threatening allergies and carry an Epipen are your friends aware that you have one on you? Or perhaps even two. Do they know what the signs are that you are having a reaction? Personally, I am pretty quick to bring up the topic, with new friends and acquaintances as it is so important. What if something happened and you couldn’t administer it to yourself? If ever I am hesitant about telling someone, likely a person I don’t know well, I always remind myself… “there’s no shame  in having allergies, and the Epipen is what will save your life”. We all have our moments.

At work, my colleagues know about the Epipen, and I demo’d how to use the Epipen to the colleagues I share an office with. How do you discuss your allergies with your employer? Or do you? I know I was a little unsure at first how to approach them. In the end, it came down to a simple talk. In your experience, what has the response been? Are they accommodating?

 

Back to School and Asthma

With classes approaching, asthmatics (children and young adults alike) will be faced with unique challenges and awareness of the triggers will be of great importance. How have you prepared for your child’ return to school in the past? If you are a University student, what does back to classes mean to you, that is if you were off for the summer…

I know I had a tough time, especially during pollen season. However, there is usually a work around, and hopefully some of your professors are understanding and willing to accommodate. In my own experience, discussing your allergies and asthma with the professor at the start of the course and/or making an appointment to talk with them during their office hours is always a GREAT idea!

Here’s an interesting article about back to school with asthma. http://www.fortmcmurraytoday.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3598314

“May Contain” Statements

Anaphylaxis Canada just shared a new poll

“Do you / does your child eat products with a “may contain (allergen)” statement?” .Answer the poll, and see what others had to say

Traveling with Allergies

Have you found yourself in a “pickle”, trying to weigh pros and cons and decide whether or not you will be able to travel safe? Ever turned down opportunities without trying to find a work around for your food allergies?

Here’s an article I wrote for the AAIA a few yrs ago, that is still very valid. Have a read, let me know what you think! =)

A Lifetime of Experiences – By Erika Ladouceur