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 from an accident. 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?

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!

Have you become a better cook as a result of having food allergies?

If you are anything like me, having severe food allergies and sensitivities has made me healthier. Living with allergies has made me much more aware of what I eat. I must say, most of the credit can go to my soy allergy as it seems like there are preservatives in almost everything these days! The soy allergy has kept me far away from any processed foods and cold-cuts at the deli as well as the marinated meats and most sauces you would find at the local grocery store. As a result, I have  spent a fair bit of time looking up recipes, getting ideas from others and trying new ingredients that I had never heard of before, and hadn’t the slightest clue how to pronounce!

I absolutely LOVE to be in the kitchen and try new recipes and spice blends. The aroma in the kitchen when cooking curry, or when a tasty soup is on low and simmering is AMAZING! Preparing the vegetables is usually a little time consuming, however it is always worthwhile. There is nothing like a home cooked meal! And all of ours are just that. If you don’t cook much and the idea of cooking more from scratch seems like one that is not going to happen, I highly recommend sitting down, brainstorming a list of the meals you enjoy most and the “comfort food” meals. Then, have a look online, as there are so many variations and some a lot easier than others! Finding recipes from someone who lives with allergies, or even a gluten-free diet is an added bonus, as they will likely have suggestions for substitutions and such ( ie: milk, eggs ).

A few sites I really like for recipes are;

My Gluten-Free Goddess

All Recipes

Living Without

Allergic Living

I learned how to cook fairly young and am very thankful to my parents and grandparents for that. If there’s one thing I would recommend, it would be to teach your kids how to cook. :)

If you are eating out with food allergies, one of my best tips is to keep it simple! Remember, the more different ingredients in the meal you order, the more risk. This is just something I have learned through experience. I’ve would also rather eat out with friends and socialize over a simple dish so I am not fearing a reaction. In my mind, there’s no point in risking it. However some restaurants, you might feel confident that they have you covered and truly “get it” and in these situations you might be more confident trying something different. I have asked for fancier dishes in a few restaurants where I had a really good talk with the manager and chef and felt confident that they were being as careful as they could possibly be in the kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. More on this train of thought to come in another post!

And, if you are interested here is an article about just this topic; “How Food Allergies Have Made Me a Better Cook”

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 :)

 

 

XXI World Congress of Asthma is around the corner!

I am very excited to be attending thanks to Allergen NCE. There is a little more information on their website now about the topics that will be discussed and the FINAL Program is also up!

Looking through the numerous sessions, titles and keynotes & speakers has been extremely inspiring, as my primary concerns and interest lie in why asthma is on the rise, and, how to manage asthma in the work place or school. It is one thing to have a home that is clear of mold and dust and is controlled, however I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with alternate environments which have multiple triggers that are beyond my control.

Over the next few days, I will be looking through the program and trying to figure out which sessions I will be attending! It’s like looking at a menu! Hopefully I will be seeing some of you there!

BTW, I can’t seem to find abstracts yet either…

:)