“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.

Shampoo, conditioner and body wash

Natural hair products

In following up to yesterdays’ post…

If you are anything like me, the products at the pharmacy or local grocery store just won’t cut it when it comes to shampoos, conditioners and body washes or bar soap. All the fragrance, perfumes and other scents always make me itchy or give me hives. Have you ever read the ingredients on your shampoo bottle? Or on the bar soap you use? If you haven’t I’d suggest having a read. All I can say is that most conditioners have wheat and/or soy.

Did you know that… another common ingredient you will find in most of the products on the market these days are parabens. Parabens are used as a preservative in many products, beauty products mainly. I’ve gotten hives from them in the past.

My scalp used to be itchy all the time! I switched to these natural products and now, I could never imagine trying a new product. They work great and I never feel itchy. If you are considering switching to a natural soap, be sure to read ingredients VERY diligently as you’ll notice that a lot of the different brands out there use soy or almond. When I first set out to find new hair and body products, I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading labels.

And when I go to the hair salon, I either bring my own products, or go prepared to have an itchy scalp for the next 24 to 48 hrs… Read an earlier post of mine; Time for a Haircut? about trips to the salon.

Tomorrow’s post will be about perfumes and makeup…

The September Asthma Spike

As many of you probably know, the month of September has been been known as the Asthma Spike. The “so-called asthma spike – the day on which many parents will show up at the hospital with school-age children in the throes of asthma attacks” is a common thing, as the return to school and more exposure to allergens, like dust can cause youth’ asthma to flare up.

How do you try to prevent this from happening? Do you have a plan with your doctor? Perhaps you have discussed a plan with your pulmonary specialist or allergist. Do you feel your lungs are getting the best attention they can? When you have asthma and you know what triggers it, being proactive is the way to go!

Allergic Living has a great article on this, I suggest having a read :-)

http://allergicliving.com/index.php/2010/07/02/asthma-spike-in-september/

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

Asthma attacks and Flare-ups

Have you or someone you know ever had to be on prednisone? After such a flare-up were you able to fully identify what the triggers were that lead to the asthma attack? Most of the time it is hard to know EXACTLY what the trigger/triggers were. Sometimes it is a combination of things and our body is not able to handle it.

The last 10 days have been hard as I had a flare up with my allergies and asthma which has resulted in my being on prednisone. As annoying as the side effects can be, I am glad to be feeling better. This is the first serious flare-up for me in quite some time and it makes me realize that though I have lots of support, a great allergist and family doctor, there are still some actions I can take, which would make me even better prepared for any similar attacks in the future.

Do you have an adequate “Asthma Team” in place? Here in Victoria, BC we have an Asthma Clinic which has a pulmonary specialist on call. Do you have a pulmonary specialist? What is your action plan, or the action plan for your son/daughter or loved one? Having a proper plan in place is very important. Do you have a peak flow meter and know how to use it? Knowing what your lung capacity is when you are feeling at your very best and when you are feeling tight provides a great way to monitor your lungs. The American Association of Allergy Asthma & Immunology has a great article on peak flow meters and how important they are; “A peak flow meter for asthma is like a thermometer for a fever. It helps monitor what’s going on inside your body.” AAAAI

I highly recommend having a glance through National Asthma Patient Alliance – Asthma Society of Canada‘s website. Do you know many others who struggle with asthma? Are you wondering how others deal with their asthma and how they might have overcome some of the challenges we often face on a day to day basis? Have a read through some real-life stories on the Asthma Society of Canada’s website! It’s always nice to know you are not the only one :)