Hi all! My name is Lindsay, and I’m allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and soy protein. I’m also lactose intolerant.
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to travel to Winnipeg, Manitoba with my fellow YAP member, Joanna, and our Program Coordinator, Heather, for the annual Anaphylaxis Community Conference. I learned so many things, despite having dealt with anaphylaxis my whole life. I thought I would share some of the cool things that I learned!
In the morning, we got the opportunity to listen to a line-up of amazing speakers, including Laurie Harada, Dr. Estelle Simons, a local Teen Panel, and Dr. Thomas Gerstner.
Laurie Harada, the Executive Director of Anaphylaxis Canada, had great insight into being a mom of an allergic teenager and how A.C. works to create allergy safe communities. Did you know that us teenagers are the most risk-taking group with our allergies? That’s why there is such a big focus on our age group and helping us to become more allergy conscious and safe.
Dr. Simons is a leading researcher at the University of Manitoba who discussed anaphylaxis in community settings. One cool thing I learned from her was that when you are having an anaphylactic reaction, it is best to remain lying down with your feet propped up. It is also very dangerous to sit or stand up too quickly!
The Teen Panel consisted of three Manitoban youth who answered a lot of great questions (asked by parents of younger children) about growing up with food allergies. Having never used my epinephrine auto-injector before, it was really reassuring to learn that it doesn’t hurt! A few of the youth have had multiple experiences with their auto-injectors, and they said that you don’t feel a thing when injected!
Before our lunch break, we heard from the allergist, Dr. Gerstner. He discussed the “nuts and bolts” of anaphylaxis, going through many questions that he commonly gets from patients. Something interesting that I learned from him is that if you are allergic to fish and it is being fried in the vicinity, it is possible for you to have an anaphylactic reaction. The frying of the fish aerosolizes protein particles, which you can then inhale through your nose or mouth. In contrast, odours alone do not contain protein particles and cannot cause a reaction.
After having a very allergy safe lunch it was time for our YAP-organized Youth Session! We had a great turn-out of 12 allergic youth from the Winnipeg area, ranging in age from 13 and up. I had a great time working with those teens and discussing topics such as travelling, dating, high school, university/college, and partying. I learned a lot from them, and I hope that they learned a lot from us!
We also got an opportunity to talk with Dr. Gerstner in a relaxed, youth-only setting. It was great to have an allergist with us to answer all of our burning anaphylaxis questions. One very important thing that we learned is not to be afraid of using your auto-injector! If you have any sort of needle phobia, talk to your allergist to see if it is possible to use your auto-injector while in their office. Dr. Gerstner did this with one of his patients, and after realizing how easy and pain-free it was, it completely changed her outlook and approach to allergy management.
Although I was exhausted by the end of the conference, it was an invaluable experience that I will never forget. I got to meet a lot of incredible people who work for Anaphylaxis Canada, leading allergists and researchers, and members of the local allergy community. More importantly, I feel that YAP was able to leave our mark in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I can’t wait to do it again in a new location next year!
To find an event like this in your neighbourhood, visit Anaphylaxis Canada’s Events page!
To help organize future events, become a volunteer or join our Youth Advisory Panel!
To catch up on what you missed in Winnipeg, download our Youth Session Booklet!