Food Allergies at Weddings

a wedding pic

I get so excited when I receive a wedding invitation in the mail. I love hearing that my friends or families have found that special someone and I love joining in on the celebration!

However, there is usually one slip of paper that comes along with the invitation that brings my thoughts away from the ceremony, the speeches and the party. I’m talking about that slip that asks you to indicate your food selection for the reception.

I love seeing a few options on this slip, as there are usually a couple options I can cross off right away. I am allergic to seafood, and fish is usually one of those options. That typically leaves me analyzing the meat and vegetarian dishes. More information is always better, but sometimes it just says meat with a special sauce, or vegetables with certain fixings. What’s in that special sauce? What on earth is a fixing? With my long list of multiple allergies, I like details!

I have had experiences where this slip says “Please indicate any allergies or intolerances”, which gives me a little bit of comfort knowing this information should make it to the catering staff. The bride and groom to-be have a lot on their plate in the months ahead, but it is acceptable to bring up the food situation in conversation prior to the big day. Bring it up casually by saying “I love that there was a tick box for allergens with the wedding invitations”. Or “I didn’t see any mention of meals for special diets, should I get in touch with the catering company in advance”. Make it easy for them and offer to be a part of the solution if you foresee a problem.

Fast forward to the wedding itself which is usually half a year away. The wedding goes well and you are overjoyed for the happy couple! Then…you start racking your brain trying to remember what food you ordered for the reception. Did you mention your allergens on the food order form?

At this point, it’s always a great idea to connect with the catering staff directly. In my experience, they go out of their way to answer your questions and make sure you have a safe meal. After all, weddings are a big business and they want all of the guests satisfied. Hopefully they can confirm for you that you have a special plated meal, or that the regular meal will be okay.

I have gone to weddings where the catering staff found ME before I could find THEM! They wanted to let me know that I would be having a special meal free of my allergens. I love that!

Magically Allergy Free

At the end of the day, you are there to celebrate love and marriage. If you are uncomfortable with the food or have other issues with the catering, try to solve it with the caterer’s supervisor or the wedding planner – try to keep the newlyweds out of it so they can stay focused on celebrating. If all else fails, you can always make a toast at the end of the night…in your toaster at home. J

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Twenty Five First Allergy Dates

25-First-Food-Allergy-Dates

To be clear, I’m not saying that I’ve been on twenty five first dates to be able to share my experiences from. What I am saying is that I’ve been on twenty four first dates. With that being said, I’m willing to share my tips and hopefully you learn a thing or two from them! The following is just a few of many, many different ways dating can be handled when you have a life-threatening allergy. Try to use these tips and stories as insights into making your own unique style of dating!

  1. Be yourself- no one is more awesome than you, so let your qualities shine through!
  2. Tell your date about your allergy early on. If they are interested in the awesome person you are, they won’t judge you for it.
  3. Bring up your allergy casually. With technology being what it is, most dates are planned through texting these days so why not use this to your advantage! Play a fun fact or question game. Ask about favourite desserts or meals and tell your date what you’re allergic to this way. Or, you can ask about three unique features about them and they may ask you back! You may find they are very interested in hearing about your allergy!
  4. Tell it as it is. “I have an allergy, it is serious if I come in contact with my allergen, do you understand?”
  5. Offer assistance. The worst thing you can do is make your date feel awkward about your allergy. Offer to help him/her adjust to your lifestyle.
  6. Try not to be afraid of telling your date about your allergy. If they like you, they will understand and be happy that you shared it with them.
  7. Answer their questions or concerns honestly.
  8. Prepare ahead of time! Even if the date is a spontaneous flurry of events, try to prepare by calling restaurants and venues in advance to go through the menu with a manager or chef.
  9. Remind or inform the staff at restaurants about the severity of your allergy.
  10. Ask, then kiss. If your date has eaten your allergen that day, don’t risk it! Hopefully you’ve already mentioned your allergy to your date before, but if not, now might be an opportune time!
  11. Shower. That’s a given.
  12. Brush your teeth. Every date loves good breath.
  13. Keep your auto-injector on you at all times.
  14. Teach your date about your auto-injector and let them know where you keep it.
  15. Compromise. This is a great general dating tip but it can also be applied to your allergy. If your date/significant other relies on your allergen for their own dietary needs, compromise and set some ground rules of when it is safe and when it is not safe to be eaten around you.
  16. Have fun!
  17. See Tip #10.
  18. Smile.
  19. Pick a fun and safe first date location. I like to plan surprise dates but I always stick to places I know and trust to help shift most of my focus to the dating experience rather than my allergy. Of course I always double-check but familiarity with an allergy-safe place can be key.
  20. Wash your hands! This is a good hygienic habit but it also limits the risk of cross-contamination.
  21. Pack a snack. Put an allergen-free snack in your purse, bag, backpack, jacket, pants, hat? Sometimes it’s nice to have the comfort of knowing you will at least have one safe thing to eat wherever you go.
  22. Be honest. This is another great general dating tip but if you feel uncomfortable or are anxious about a situation with your allergen present, voice your concerns! In this case, honesty can be the best policy.
  23. Keep your auto-injector on you at all times. Oh, I said that one already? I guess that means it’s important.
  24. Try to avoid poppy seed bagels and anything with spinach before a date. Your smile will thank me for that one!
  25. Laugh. Why? Because, laughing is fun and everyone wants fun dates!

First dates can be nerve-wracking experiences at the best of times, so try not to add any un-needed pressure on yourself; prepare ahead of time, make it a habit, and the fun parts will naturally follow!

Couple in Sunlight

Food Allergies and Potlucks – Should I stay or should I go?

With allergies, comes decision-making; should I eat this, should I go there, should I risk it? You need to remember to always do what is right for you! You know what situations may be dangerous for you and need to do what is best for your health and safety.

With the holidays quickly approaching, potlucks are upon us. Trusting other people with food allergies can often be a tricky thing to do. Last year I had a negative experience with a school potluck that is making me reconsider my decision to attend this year. Everyone was informed of the allergens that were not to be brought to the potluck, but people forgot and they were present. I was not comfortable eating any of the food and left the room, as there was food on most surfaces.

Pot lucks can be a tricky situation at any holiday event

Pot lucks can be a tricky situation at any holiday event.

It was upsetting as I had been looking forward to the Christmas party and all my friends were able to participate. With this year’s potluck being this Friday, I am in the decision process of trying to decide whether or not I am comfortable in attending. Having food allergies can make it difficult to trust others with something as simple as food.

Best Practice - Write out all of the ingredients on the dish you bring.

Best Practice – Write out all of the ingredients on the dish you bring.

With situations like this, don’t worry about what anyone will think and do what is right for you. My teacher has posted the allergens on all the invitations and sign up sheets so I might attend. I have till Friday to decide, but in the end I will only do what I am truly comfortable with. That is just something that comes with food allergies! Have you ever had a tricky situation where you have had to decide whether you would participate or not?

How to Save a Life

Dylan and Jason 2 (1)My brother, who also has a peanut allergy, recently got married and the wedding was a huge success! However, a week before the wedding, we had his bachelor party up at a friend’s cottage in Muskoka. It was a guest cabin, completely “decked” out with a kitchen and everything you would need for a rainy October weekend!

At midnight on the second night (sounds cliché but I’m not kidding), our group was sitting around the kitchen table playing Cards Against Humanity when my brother suddenly says, “hey guys, I don’t want to alarm anyone but is this bad?” He pulled up his shirt and his chest was covered in hives. Seeing as how we had all been drinking for some time, we initially thought to rationalize the reaction. He had a previous allergic reaction two years ago so I was trying to remember what symptoms he had. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the hives were something he had never experienced before and we hadn’t eaten anything that even “may contained” nuts, so we were confused to say the least. After asking if he felt several other common symptoms, I asked him to lift up his shirt to see his back. When he lifted, his entire back was COVERED in hives! So that’s when we all got up, realized it was serious, and headed to the main cabin to see if the owner could drive us to a hospital. He told us that he had a few beers in his system also and the nearest hospital was an hour away! (Insert internal panic now.) My brother called 9-1-1 and they said, “An ambulance is 30 minutes away so do what you can for now and if you have your auto-injector, you should use it.”

Ambulance

So once my brother got off the phone, he looked at me and asked if I had the Allerject™ on me that I had been bragging about getting before him. I nodded my head and held it out to him. He’s afraid of needles and told me I had to do it! I shook my head and insisted he do it but he very sternly told me he wouldn’t, then got down on one knee. I think the voice of the Allerject™ was what helped calm me the most because once I pulled it out, and in my opinion, the process was nearly impossible to have messed it up. It even counted for me, which was amazing. After the injection, we went inside the cottage to stay warm and as we waited, the hives slowly went away. When the ambulance arrived, I went with my brother to the closest hospital. On a side note, sitting in the front seat of an ambulance was pretty cool!

Anyway, I chatted with the driving paramedic and he told me that we were lucky to have the auto-injector and smart to have used it. There’s no telling when or how a reaction will play out and it seems that the epinephrine did its job well. The reaction had died down so much, in fact, that we were just going to the hospital for the “monitoring” phase to make sure nothing further happened.

We are still trying to find out what caused the reaction and think it may have been a case of cross-contamination at the cottage. I like to think of this story not as the day that potentially ruined a bachelor party, but the day that I saved my brother’s life for his wedding the next weekend!

Halloween with allergies? No sweat!

A witch holding a platter of candy apples

Trick-or-treat can get tricky with allergies…

It’s that time of year again… ghouls, goblins and allergies! Halloween is the time of year where your allergens can pop up anywhere, especially as you get older and you are taking on more responsibility with your allergies and perhaps branching off from the traditional ‘trick-or-treating’ evening with your parents. Halloween can be quite nerve-racking, but don’t let your allergies ruin your night. Halloween can still be super fun and safe no matter what you do.

Follow some of these useful tips:

  1. If you still like to go trick-or-treating in high school, that’s completely cool! But make it a game! Trick-or-treat like you usually do with your friends and don’t give much thought about what kind of treats are being dropped into your bag. Just have fun! Once you get home, dump your whole bag of treats on the floor and see how many of the treats you can identify as key allergens. Put your allergen treats to one side while putting the treats that you can have in another pile. Read the ingredients of the leftover treats that you aren’t sure of and put them in the appropriate pile. Maybe ask some of your friends if you can trade some of your not so allergy-friendly treats with some of their allergy-friendly treats. Or you can always donate the treats containing your allergens.

While some of you want to appreciate the last years you have trick-or-treating, others may be spending their Halloween at a party. If it’s your first time away from your parents on Halloween night, or even if you’ve been attending Halloween parties for a couple of years, these tips can apply to you.

  1. When you get to the party, head straight for the treats table! You want to see if there are any ‘allergen’ foods at the party. If there are, perhaps ask the host if they can put those particular treats away. Don’t be nervous or scared about it. You want to feel secure; you don’t want to spend your night worrying about people eating your allergens and then touching everything around you. Another option is to call the host before the party and ask if they can keep those allergens away altogether.
  2. Never use the same glass twice. If you’re drinking any type of beverage from a cup, always ensure that once you put your cup down, you grab a new drink. You don’t want to accidentally drink from the same cup as someone who may have had your allergen earlier in the day. It’s easy for people to mix up drinks at a party when people are dancing and socializing. You want to ensure that there is no chance of cross-contamination.
  3. Bring some of your own goodies! If you’re nervous about the food at the party, you can always bring some of your allergen-friendly Halloween treats from home.
  4. Make sure close friends around you know how to use your epinephrine auto-injector (e.g. EpiPen© or Allerject™). Since you’re not with your parents that night, it’s important that you have some friends that know how to use it just in case.
  5. Keep your epinephrine close. You can even make it a part of your costume! Girls, you can easily carry it in your purse or perhaps incorporate it into your costume as a garter. Boys, pockets are key or incorporate it into a costume on your belt.

No matter what you decide to do on Halloween, it’s important to stay safe.  Allergies shouldn’t limit your activities, but at the same time, you always want to ensure that you’re being responsible and safe.

Happy Halloween!

Partying with Food Allergies

You may be surprised to learn that a person with allergies can actually learn a thing or two from the movie The Heat and by that I mean besides accumulating a shiny new arsenal of curse words which make up the majority of the movie (better to just say “Oh Nuts” in my opinion).

The move "The Heat" features a scene that could be dangerous for a peanut allergic person.

The move “The Heat” features a scene that could be dangerous for a peanut allergic person.

Without revealing too much of what happens in the movie, there is this one scene where Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are livin’ it up at some decrepit looking bar with a bunch of seniors.  It’s pretty funny, until you see the bowl of peanuts on the bar counter and – just a few seconds later – Bullock drunkenly crumbling peanuts shells onto some drunk, passed out biker.  Sure, it’s all in the name of drunken fun, but it kind of reminded me that as a person living with allergies, situations where people loose their inhibitions and sense of good judgement are not always as fun as they may initially be.

Okay, so I know something like this scene may never actually happen in real life, but as much fun as it may be to party, if you have allergies, you need to be careful not to let loose entirely.  It’s possible that you may eat an unknown food that you would unlikely eat in a sober situation. For non-allergic people, this isn’t a big deal.  But for those with allergies, it’s your life you’re gambling with.

Additionally, alcohol impairs the judgement of those around you, which may result in friends or acquaintances attempting to feed you your allergen(s), or throw them at you, etc.  This is something they wouldn’t do in a normal situation, but could very well occur at a party.

If you are going out to party, it’s important to have a plan:

– Know which alcohols contain nuts!  Yes, there are a few. Please take a look at this list of alcohol that may contain nuts such as Frangelico (hazelnut) and Bombay Sapphire Gin (almond). Be sure to call the manufacturer directly if unsure.

 

– You must have your auto-injector on you somewhere, even if you’re wearing tight clothes or not carrying a bag!  It’s not enough to leave it in the car.  If you’re looking for an easy way to carry your epi-pen at the club, maybe try this.  Or, look into the the new Allerject/Auvi-Q auto-injector, which is designed to fit into your pocket.

– Let your friends know of your situation and the risks involved.  Tell them to keep an eye out for you in case of any risky situations.

– Eat before the party.  This way, you won’t be inclined to snack on any munchies or foods provided.

– Don’t share drinks or cups!  There could be traces of your allergen from someone who drank from the bottle/cup before you, and it’s better not to take the chance.

– Wear MedicAlert jewelry or an allergy identification piece of some sort.

How have you managed your allergies while partying?

Pool Party Gone Wrong

This is a reposting of a blog article written by Sydney H. from her blog http://ataleofanaphylaxis.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/pool-party-gone-wrong/. We are happy that she is okay!

***

So It happened again… I spent today in the ER after an anaphylactic reaction. This afternoon I went to an end of school year pool party with some of my girlfriends. I finished my last exam this morning and was pumped to start summer vacation. The afternoon was going perfectly! We went swimming, had lunch (perfectly allergen free), and were having so much fun! I was playing with my friends dog and throwing its toy around when the dog brought back a weed by accident. It turns out the plant was stinging nettle and its tiny thorns cut my leg and finger. Within seconds of the plant touching me my leg began to swell with welty hives, as well did my finger. My body flushed with heat and I instantly felt faint and nauseous. I took a benadryl figuring it was nothing serious. I ran to the washroom as I thought I was going to be sick and my friends followed. I told them I needed my Epipen and they were fabulous. I knew I needed it because I could feel my lips swelling and my throat closing. I remember thinking “This cant be happening on the first day of summer!!”. I administered the epipen by myself and I can honestly say I don’t remember doing that or even feeling the pain. I was so sick and faint it is all a blur. My friends immediately called 911 and my parents, as we were home alone. I have never been so proud to call these girls my friends! They handled themselves so well and were so calm. Two of them decided to wait in the driveway for the ambulance, one made phone calls, one gathered my things and my two best friends held my hands and made sure I stayed with them. They wiped my tears and were so mature and comforting.Thankfully they put some clothes on me so I wasn’t laying around in my bikini when the fire chief and paramedics arrived. I am sure we looked like a couple of wing nuts. Me laying on a bathroom floor and them running around in bikinis! Sadly the paramedics weren’t super hunky but my friends said they were keeping an eye out! Luckily they let my mom ride in the front of the ambulance as last time I had a traumatic experience by myself. The Epipen and Benadryl worked their magic and the rash disappeared and the swelling went down. As per usual I spent 4 hours in the ER to make sure my vitals were improving. They prescribed some steroids to help heal from the swelling and such. Of course I will be on alert for a secoundarry reaction, but I’m doing okay.

I am so thankful that I was surrounded by amazing people and that I am doing better. These situations are crazy scary but they make me stronger. The next couple days will probably be rough but hey im alive!!

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Staying Safe at Easter with Allergies

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Easter is quickly approaching and that does not mean that you have to avoid all Easter candies and not participate in traditional Easter activities! There is always a way to make some accommodations so you can enjoy your holidays with family and friends. Here are my tips on how you can make sure your allergies don’t hold you back.

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What to put in your Easter basket!

Like most holidays, Easter involves Candy… but don’t worry there is all kinds of allergen free treats to add to your Easter basket. Here are some suggestions:

  • Some brands of mini-eggs are nut-free.
  • Some marshmallow chicks are free of many common allergens.
  • Homemade Easter goodies are a great idea (Check-out Hannah’s blog post for some delicious Easter recipes!)
  • There are a variety of allergen free chocolate Easter bunnies on the market, so take a long hard look at their labels.
  • You can also take plastic Easter eggs and fill them with little gifts like hair accessories, coins, gift cards etc.

*Always remember to read labels and confirm with companies.

Easter Egg Hunt Tips

No matter how old you are, an Easter egg hunt is always fun! Large community egg hunts can be scary with allergies so I recommend planning your own. Invite some friends and family over and hide allergen free treats and small gifts. By planning the event you will ensure that you are as safe as possible and everyone is sure to have fun!


Still love to decorate eggs?

Are you allergic to eggs but still love to decorate Easter eggs? Look no further, we have a solution! You can always decorate plastic, wood, Styrofoam or ceramic eggs!!! Get as creative as possible; add some stickers, paint, ribbon and gems. Your Easter eggs are sure to look great and no one will know the difference.Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 11.25.48 AM

I hope these tips help you enjoy an allergen free Easter weekend! Always remember that holidays are about spending time with family and friends. If you’re not interested in egg hunts or candy, get outside and enjoy the spring weather! Go for a walk, ride your bike and enjoy yourself. Have a great weekend!

Comment if you have any Easter tips for living with allergies!

 

Valentine’s Day with Food Allergies

allergy friendly chocolate hearts

Valentine’s day is about giving and showing your love and affection towards that special person in your life. To the food allergic date, this day is very much like any other special day or holiday when we need to step up ou game. We need to be more conscious about our allergies, especially when chocolates and other various candy are given out, perhaps in school or amongst friends.

This is my second Valentine’s day with someone special in my life and I am not the least bit worried because we stay away from the chocolates and candies. Instead, we will have a nice dinner, perhaps by candlelight and an evening together. And I have a hunch I’ll be getting roses… 🙂

What will you be doing? Will you be going out or staying in? If you are going out, stay alert. Remember that you can be as safe as you want, however your date will need to be the same if a Valentine’s day kiss is in the evening plan. That’s why I say a nice evening in with safe food makes this day even more special. In my mind, the only thing nicer than a dinner for two at home is a dinner for two In a fancy suite in Paris.

If your friends are handing out cinnamon hearts and chocolate at school and you are not so sure about the ingredients, just say “thanks but no thanks” and grab yourself a few chocolates on your way home!

Allergy Costumes!

Hey everyone!

I’m Karen, and I have an allergy to peanuts, tree nuts and soy. I thought we could have a little fun with Halloween, by showing that we can still have fun with our allergies with costumes of the some of the most common allergens in Canada. There are also a few allergy jokes in there that I hope you find a little humorous. Enjoy!

 EGG

A boy dressed up in a fried egg costume

MILK

A man dressed up in a milk carton costume

As part of the admission procedure in the hospital where I work, I ask the patients if they are allergic to anything. If they are, I print it on an allergy band placed on the patients’ wrists. Once when I asked an elderly woman if she had any allergies, she said she couldn’t eat bananas. Imagine my surprise when several hours later a very irate son came out to the nurses’ station demanding, “Who’s responsible for labelling my mother ‘bananas’?

 HAZELNUT (TREE NUTS)

 A woman dressed up in a hazelnut costume

PEANUT

A man dressed up in a peanut costume

BEES (INSECT BITES)

A baby dressed up in a bumble bee costume

Humans and bees have something in common – hives!

FISH

A boy dressed up in a fish costume

A picture of a cat wearing a dress was seen hanging in an allergy clinic with the following caption: We got rid of the kids, the cat was allergic.

 SHELLFISH

A baby dressed up in a lobster costumeMUSTARD

 A man dressed up in a mustard bottle costume

WHEAT (her dress is made out of it!)

An actress wearing a dress made out of wheat
Q) Did you hear about the Frenchman who could only count to seven?
A) He had a huit allergy.

Jokes from: http://whatallergy.com/ and http://allergyasthma.on.ca. All images from Google images.