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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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!

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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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Allergy Safe Workplace Holiday Party

Hi, my name is Stephanie and I am allergic to peanuts/tree nuts

With Christmas just around the corner, many workplaces are organizing Christmas/holiday parties. Whether you are an employee or a volunteer, you may be planning to attend these functions to celebrate the holidays and get to know your co-workers a little better..

Often, these types of parties may be a ‘potluck’ style where everyone brings a certain dish. Don’t worry! I know dining out and informing one chef of your allergies can be challenging, but attending a potluck with many cooks, cooking in many kitchens does not have to be a nightmare for the allergic teen! The key is information, awareness and early communication!

Here are some good tips for getting ready for a work holiday party:

1. Get in touch with the organizer as soon as possible! When the invitations are sent out, the organizer can specify that any dishes brought to the event should avoid a particular allergen if possible. People will usually be more than willing to bring foods that are safe for everyone so all can enjoy.

2. Help plan the party yourself! Ask to be a part of your workplace’s social committee and contribute ideas to make the party allergy-safe. Help with labelling food, setting up the event and creating the invitations. Ensure each dish has any allergens labelled and has its own serving utensils so that no one cross-contaminates. That way you will be able to stick to your ‘safe foods’ if there are foods at the party that contain your allergy.

3. Bring your own dish/food to share! Bringing your favourite recipe will help ensure that you not only have something to eat while at the party, but you will also have a great, safe recipe to share! You can even increase awareness about allergies by telling people about what’s in your dish and why it is safe for people with particular food allergies. Let it be a conversation starter!

Have a safe holiday season!