“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.

Allergies are not fair…

Let’s be honest. Sometimes when we have to miss out on something we really want to do, or perhaps our plate looks less appetizing than the person next to us, we start to think “allergies are not fair, why me?”. It’s what happens when we have allergies. Whether it be food allergies or environmental allergies. I’d be lying if I said that I’ve never missed out on something or felt a little angry and even sad because I could not attend an event. And there have been numerous times when I went to a party and ended up eating veggies while others ate things that looked a million times more appealing… however I’ve always tried to spin my thinking.

It’s easy to start telling ourselves that life would be so much better without allergies, especially the food allergies… It is often easier to focus on what we’re NOT able to do, and NOT able to eat than it is to tell ourselves all the great things that are going on in our lives. Society nowadays leads one to want to compare what they have with what others have. If I have allergies and not one of my friends do, it is easy for me to feel frustrated and think life’s unfair or unjust. Is it always easy for me to embrace life? No, it’s not. It takes a little more energy, more confidence and a lot of honesty.

Whenever I start to feel down about not going to a party because my friends have a dog or a cat or not being able to attend an event because it is in an old, dusty building I just have smile and tell myself “it’s not the end of the world” and plan something else. It is what it is. There are a lot of people out there that would much rather have allergies than the disease they are fighting, or the injuries they have sustained. Allergies do suck sometimes, however allergies can be managed. We can control our environment. We can control the food we eat. And not everything involves food. We can still go to the movies with friends, go for a hike or a camping trip. To some people, these are all things they wish they could one day do…

Embrace life. Next time you think to yourself that you wish you didn’t have allergies and that life is unfair, think of those that have even more allergies… There are a few people that instead of being allergic to 4 things, can only eat 4 things.  I can’t even imagine.

At the end of the day, what matters the most is not the food you can or cannot eat. There is sooo much more to life. Allergies do feel unfair. Sometimes I’ve wished they’d just disappear on me. Reality is that my life-threatening allergies to peanuts, nuts, lentils and soy are likely here to stay. And I’m ok with that. Are you?

Do you Allow Pets?

This weekend, I stayed at The Inn on Long Lake in Nanaimo and it was a wonderful experience! From start to finish. I was EXTREMELY pleased. I called in 48 hrs before our arrival date and mentioned that I had severe allergies to pets (cat and dog) and wanted to know whether they allowed pets. The women I spoke with was extremely understanding and explained that yes, they do accept pets. She said that they “try” to keep the third floor free of pets, though they cannot guarantee 100% that there has never been a pet in those rooms. She said that the decision would be up to me, dependent on how severe my allergy was.

I expressed that my allergies were VERY severe and she offered to put me on hold whilst she spoke to her manager. Only a few minutes later she returned. She explained that they did have a few rooms that were a little higher priced as they had a king size bed and were more spacious. For the extra $20.00 I decided it would be the best decision for me. Now, some might wonder… how did you decide? Well, considering I have had a tough time with my asthma the last few months and that Inns, Hotels etc. usually trigger allergies, due to the cleaning products they use and detergent for sheets and towels, the decision was a , “no-brainer” for me. No point adding another “possible” trigger into the mix!

I opened the patio door for the night (usual practice for me) and slept great.I had a great stay despite being a little itchy from the sheets and towels, which I have gotten used to.

I highly recommend their beautiful in, with views on long lake. What an amazing sunrise this morning.  🙂


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!

New Chairs at the Doctor’s office!

Ok so you are probably wondering why I am so excited about new chairs at the clinic. Well, most of the time, chairs are in fabric and covered in cat dog and other pet hair and dander. I always cringe when I have to sit down in these chairs, because it is like I am sitting down on the very thing that makes me ill. To be honest, I haven’t the slightest clue whether or not the hair and dander on these chairs actually triggers my allergies. All I know is I feel more comfortable sitting down on a chair that is not covered in visible allergens.

Similarly, this ties in to the whole issue with buying used furniture. If like me, you have severe allergies to pet dander, dust etc. then buying furniture from someone is not ideal, unless of course you know the person you are getting it from or at least the home it is coming from. You almost need to know the history of the couch before agreeing to buy it or better yet get it for free. Leather is always a safer solution, but comes with a price. It can be tough to find a new couch, for a reasonable price, and often times can be frustrating because you know there is no alternative. My boyfriend and I were lucky when we moved to our new place as we found a brand new couch at Dodd’s Furniture in the clearance items. LUUUUCKY! 🙂

There’s a cat on-board ?!?!

Have you ever taken a plane? Ever noticed that you were sharing the plane with a cat or dog, or even a few of each? Well, I most certainly have. Whenever I fly, I always try to be at the gate about 30 minutes or so before my flight and make sure I speak with the crew at the gate about my allergies. They are usually very understanding and accommodating and will offer to move me further away from pets, and/or let me know if there are any on the flight and which rows they are in. It is a nice relief when they say “no pets aboard this flight!” I always feel a little relief as I think our minds sometimes worry more than they should about these things.

Ok, ok, I did promise to share a story, so here it goes!

It was Christmas holidays and the snow was piling up in Victoria. For those who do not know Victoria, we don’t usually get much snow here in the winter. A few inches maybe, spread throughout the winter… A student at the University of Victoria at the time, I was trying to fly to Quebec to visit my family for the holidays. The local airport had grounded all planes and the probability of getting back to Montreal was looking slim. After some serious inquiry I scored a direct flight from Vancouver, on the mainland, over to Montreal. I grabbed my bags and taxied to the ferries… After a 2 hour ferry ride, cab ride, night in a hotel and a shuttle to the airport the next day, I was sooo excited to be at the gate, see my plane on time and no delays reported! I checked in at the gate, re-mentioned my severe allergies to nuts and asked if there were any cats or dogs on-board. The woman kindly had a look and then told me that there were several cats and dogs aboard. She mentioned the rows they were in and also said that she would have moved me to the front of the plane further away from them had there been an empty seat, but that due to the weather, the plane was booked solid and every seat was spoken for. They had even overbooked the flight!

I boarded the plane during the “pre-boarding” to make sure I had time to clean my seat and put on my mask before others boarded. Eventually the plane filled up and I explained to the man sitting next to me why I was wearing a mask. He did not believe me that there were pets aboard and I immediately asked whether he had allergies. Sure enough, he was fairly allergic as well. I offered him antihistamines, as I was well equipped for the flight home, and he just laughed. He said he’d be fine, so I didn’t push the subject. Within ~ 30 minutes of being on-board, he started sneezing and scratching his throat and I felt bad for him. Poor guy, spent most of the flight in the bathroom sneezing and coughing and well going through all the symptoms of an allergic reaction. When we landed in Montreal, I was soooooo relieved that I had worn my mask, because that could have been me. Had I not worn it, I would have been the one with the runny nose and sneezing! This flight was definitely my first appreciation of wearing a mask to fly or on any public transport for that matter. It is sooo not worth the symptoms to go without, in my mind.

That’s all folks. Story time is over for tonight.