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 🙂



Buying “clean” food in Victoria and Online!

If you are like me and strive to find products that have the least possible amount of preservatives in them as possible, I highly recommend browsing through Epicure to see what amazing herb mixes and products you can find.

“Epicure does not add filler, additives or MSG to their products. We make it possible for people with allergies to enjoy tasty food without compromising their health! Contact me for specific information about our products or ingredients. Most of our products are gluten free, low in salt, and BC certified Kosher.” – Tricia Sturgeon, Independent Consultant

And while you are at it, check out my most recent page with local places to buy! Lifestyle Markets, Market on Yates, and Market on Millstream are the first few I had time to add =)

Will grocery shopping get easier? New Canadian Food Allergen Labelling Regulations

How long does it take you to do your groceries? If you are like most, you read labels very closely knowing that the slightest trace of allergen could lead to an anaphylactic reaction. With manufacturers using different labeling conventions and not necessarily claiming everything they should (allergen-wise) on labels, a short grocery list could be an hrs worth.

Do you remember the campaigns to try and change the regulations? One of the most helpful ones will be fully in effect by August 4th of this year! It is so great to know we have made it to the next stepping stone. Not to say there isn’t a lot more to advocate for, however these clearer labels are a fairly significant step in the right direction. Have a read, and share what you think!

I will still pay attention to labels and follow up with manufacturers if I am not 100% sure, though these new labels will make it easier to quickly “weed out” the ones that aren’t the slight bit safe. 🙂


Another positive hotel experience!

This weekend we were in Tofino, on Vancouver Island and stayed at the Tin Wis Hotel.

If you are looking for a nice place to stay, perhaps celebrate or spend a nice weekend as a couple, the staff here were amazing. When I initially called in to make a reservation, they took notes about not to use any scented cleaning products and assured me that our room would have been thoroughly cleaned, if in the past there had been a dog or other pet in it. Each room also had patio doors, which was great! Nowadays, many hotels have windows that do not even open, which can be a real nuisance for us allergy sufferers.

Dinner was also phenomenal. The kitchen staff and waitress were extremely understanding and modified the dish to cater to my allergies. They were not taking any chances. And their menu has several gluten free options! They are aware. They also have gluten free wraps available for breakfast.

Definitely worthy of another stay.

What places have you stayed at that you feel extremely comfortable returning to for your next stay? Do many come to mind?

Two safe flights to start our vacation off on the right track! Thank you WestJet!

When you are planning a trip whether it be for vacation or other, what are you most concerned about? For me it’s the flight. The idea of being so high up and far from any hospital has always frightened me, though, when I fly WestJet, this seems to dissipate… 🙂

Tuesday morning my boyfriend, Mike and I headed to the airport. We were heading to Montreal for a week to visit family. We printed our tickets and went to the bag drop off counter where we were greeted by a smiling WestJet employee. I mentioned that I had severe, life-threatening allergies to peanuts, and all other nuts as well as allergies to cats and dogs. She was very understanding and made specific notes in the computer about my allergies as I explained to her that I would be wearing a mask and had 2 Epi-pens and an inhaler that I would keep in the seat pocket in front of me.  I felt less concerned about our trip already!

We then headed to security. In my mind, going through security was step 2 of the “flying with allergies process”. I had a large ziploc bag containing all my prescription medications (Epi-pens and inhalers) and antihistamines along with the actual receipts in my name. Once through security, we headed for the gate and I went straight up to the counter to speak with a WestJet gate agent about my allergies and asthma.

I was greeted by another smile and VERY understanding WestJet employee. She checked our flight and confirmed that there would be one small pet on board, but it would be at the back of the plane, so far from us in aisle 8. I smiled and thanked her for the info. I asked if she wouldn’t mind looking into our connecting flight from Toronto to Montreal and she assured me she was already looking into it to see if there were pets on board that one. I was told that as of yet, there were no pets on that flight. As our seats were in the back of the plane, she asked if we would mind here moving us to aisle 3, mentioning that they try to book the passengers with pets at the back of the plane in the last few rows. I thanked her and gave her Mike’s boarding pass and she moved both of us! I then asked if we could pre-board so we could clean the seats, arm rests and tables and she confirmed we could do so without a problem and even asked if we needed any cleaning supplies to do so! I was extremely pleased to have yet another great conversation with WestJet personnel.

We pre-boarded with the others and I spoke to the flight attendant that greeted us upon boarding the plane. I said “Hi, my name is Erika, I am the passenger with the severe allergy to peanuts and nuts. I will be wearing a mask and will have my 2 Epi-pens and my inhaler in the seat pocket in front of me” they asked me if it would be ok for them to make an announcement to all passengers on the flight and I expressed gratitude for them offering to do so. We went to our seats, cleaned all the surfaces and I put on my mask. I was ready to fly!

Once the plane was full, the flight attendants made their safety speech and in a separate message, they mentioned that there was a passenger aboard who had a severe allergy to peanuts and nuts and asked that passengers refrained from eating nuts on the flight for “her” safety. More points for West Jet! And I was surprised to hear the same recorded message in French! Under the mask I was smiling. 🙂 They also spoke one on one with the passengers in the rows next to me to confirm they understood the severity, and checked on me throughout the duration of the flight.

We arrived in Toronto with only a few minutes to spare before our next plane would take off, literally 5 minutes. In this case, pre-boarding was NOT an option as we were one of the last ones to board. When we got to the gate, the West Jet employee scanned my boarding pass and said, “we were looking for you and wanted to ask whether your allergy was only to peanuts or if it was all nuts”. I confirmed it was all nuts and she told me to simply identify myself to the flight attendant when we boarded the plane, that they were already aware of my situation. I gave a similar intro to the flight attendant as I had on the previous flight and they were extremely understanding and confirmed they would make an announcement in both languages. They made an announcement and we had a second safe and relaxing flight!

We arrived in Montreal, I took the mask off and was good to go. Every flight I have had with WestJet has been memorable (in a good way) and I choose WestJet whenever I can because they get it. They are amazing! All West Jet personnel I have ever dealt with have been keen to please and make me feel confident and safe while travelling. If you are looking for a relaxing trip in the sky, where you are not panicked about people eating nuts right next to you, I HIGHLY recommend WestJet! And you are also bound to get a few good chuckles as the flight attendants tend to make some good jokes! 🙂

Last minute packing…

Yes, we all do it. There’s always the thought that ” I don’t have to do it right away, I’ve got lots of time”. Well, at least my “last minute packing” consists only of packing clothes as all my medications, “Erika-friendly” snacks, and masks for the plane were ready to go yesterday! 🙂

Ahhhh a sigh of relief. Bag to check is packed, carry-on is packed and now I can sit back relax and smile as I feel I have become so much more efficient and organized with planning trips. Now, this trip is a little different as we will be going to visit family, so I am not having to deal with hotels and special requests for cleaners etc. On the flip side, the challenge remains that everyone has pets, except for my brother’s place who we were fortunate enough to acquire for the week along with another family’s home which is fairly safe as well…

I use “fairly” because both places we will be staying at, have had peanuts, nuts, soy and legumes in the kitchen which means it isn’t as safe as the comfort of our own kitchen here at home. However… this has never stopped me from embarking on new adventures in the past and does not scare me now. On numerous trips in the past, my friends, colleagues and family have all pitched in to help make the kitchen safer for me. And how might we do this?

STEP 1: When we arrive at a hotel kitchenette or at a house we’ve rented, or suite at a hotel, or even when we are staying at someone else’s house the first thing we do is clean every single surface! EVERYTHING. A good cleaner and a nice sink full of hot water with “new” clothes/sponges will do the trick.

STEP 2: Clean the dishes and cutlery that might be used for cooking meals or eating. If there are plastic spatulas or other spoons, I always set them aside and insure they do NOT get used throughout our stay.

STEP 3: Clean the door to the fridge, and at least the shelf in the fridge where I will be keeping my food. When I was away at cross-country training camps, this was ALWAYS crucial.

These are only a few of the bigger steps I take to create a safer kitchen environment when I am not in my own kitchen and don’t know what foods were eaten, or prepared. Other precautions can be taken, and I do take a few more.

Well, tonight has come and gone and I need to get some sleep before we fly East tomorrow. More to come as I share my experience travelling with WestJet, as they have always been amazing with my allergies.

**Remember, I am only a young adult with allergies sharing my experiences and what I do is NOT necessarily what you will do which is 100% ok. I am just sharing what I do to make myself safer in someone else’s kitchen.

Tips for teens when eating out, a short article I wrote..

A short Article I wrote for the AAIA in 2007… from the following link on the Allergy/Asthma Information Associations website:

Tips for Teens When Eating Out

by Erika Ladouceur, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC

There are a number of different ways of approaching different situations from eating out, to going to a friend’s house etc. These are a couple things I keep in mind when I eat out. Precautions are a good thing.

  • If you or an adult is calling the restaurant ahead of time for a reservation, you might want to mention your allergy then. This way the staff/chef will know in advance and possibly set up a meal for you and if not, they will be more prepared when you go for supper etc. (Less to worry about the night of, especially if it’s a birthday party or celebration.)
  • Make sure that you carry your epinephrine auto-injector with you.
  • When you arrive at the restaurant, you can mention to the waitress who is serving you about your allergies, so it doesn’t come up at the same time as all the other orders. (Simply means the waitress is more likely to find out from the chef immediately because he/she doesn’t have to place other orders etc. You have their attention…)
  • Make sure you use the words “fatal” or “deadly” or “anaphylactic” when specifying your allergy. This will have a bigger impact then if you simply say: “I have an allergy to peanuts…” They will be more likely to understand the situation better.
  • Ask for sauces or salad dressings on the side… That way if you see you can’t have the dressing or sauce, you won’t have to return the entire meal. They can just give you vinegar or oil or something else.
  • When in doubt STAY AWAY! If you don’t think something is safe even though the waiter or waitress seems to think it’s ok, avoid it. We know and understand our allergies as well as the foods that usually contain them..
  • Double check, even if you have been told prior that the food is safe.
  • Stay calm if you’re not feeling right, but tell someone right away even if you’re not sure if it really is relevant.

There are a number of different ways of approaching different situations from eating out, to going to a friend’s house etc. These are a couple things I keep in mind when I eat out. Precautions are a good thing…