8 Creative Allergy Advantages

Allergy Concept

Allergy Concept

Hi. I’m Harrison, an 18 year old university student allergic to eggs, dairy, soy, all nuts, all seafood, apples, cherries, and pears. If you count, that’s 8 allergies, so I decided to create the 8 creative allergy advantages list!

1.     Responsibility

When I was 7, I never forgot a toy at a restaurant, to tie my shoes, or to bring my homework while other kids my age left stuff all over the place. What was different for me? My auto-injector taught me responsibility; when I was 9. I was already remembering to bring it everywhere, and had the responsibility of telling my teachers I couldn’t eat their treats.

2.     You can’t eat many foods

Why is that an advantage you say? Because I don’t need to figure out what I’m going to eat or spend time or money trying new foods or recipes; I just eat the same 20 or so things over and over with small variations. As a result, I’ve gotten so good that I can even impress friends and my parents by cooking for them!

3.     Conversation-ing (because that’s a word)

Want to talk to someone? Here’s an example of how I do it. Just wait until your target is eating (should be easy because people eat all the time)

Harrison: What’s that?

Really pretty person who I want to talk to: It’s my lunch, its macaroni and cheese.

Harrison: Cool. Does it taste good? I wouldn’t know, I’m allergic.

Pretty person: Oh my gosh I’m sorry, should I not be eating this in front of you?

There you go, conversation. Do I want them to take pity on me, or do I want to be confident that I love myself? It’s all up to me, and that’s awesome.

4.     Familiarity with restaurants

The 2 or 3 restaurants I go to, I go to ALL THE TIME. I even know the waiters by name there, and when they come up to serve me they say “Hi Harrison!”, and then I just go “Hi (waiter’s name)! The usual please”, and BAM, there’s no non-allergy person who can order as fast as I can!

5.     Empathy

Having food allergies lets you relate and share something in common with other people with dietary restrictions, for example food sensitivities, diabetes, vegans, or lactose intolerance. From there you can share common experiences, tips, stories, and in some cases that’s how I met some of my best friends today!

6.     YOU GET TO BE PART OF YAP. I MEAN JUST LOOK AT ALL THESE AWESOME PEOPLE AND BLOG POSTS. NEED I SAY MORE?!?!?!?

7.     Character building.

Imagine a family vacation to Mexico where you’ll meet over 40 of your family members, half of which you don’t know, none of which have food allergies. And then imagine a careless cross-contamination incident at the restaurant and going to the hospital while these relatives are watching you, some not even knowing you had food allergies in the first place, some not even speaking English! Yeah, that was me.

I really learned to own and not be ashamed of my allergies in Mexico because I couldn’t hide what happened, so instead I came out of that hospital saying ‘Yeah it was an allergic reaction. I’ll talk to the chef about it next time. I’m ok now, no worries. Can we still go snorkelling please?’

8.     It’s you

Do you have someone you love so much that even with their negative traits (that you complain about to all your other friends) you wouldn’t want them any other way? Yep, that’s how I bet other people see you too! And sure I’m allergic to a lot, and sometimes I blow it out of proportion, but at the end of the day I’m glad it’s a part of me not only because there are 8 creative advantages, but because it’s me, and I love me and wouldn’t want me any other way.

 

Avoiding Allergic Reactions While Eating Out on Vacation

My name is Mathew and I am allergic to all tree nuts and peanuts. I recently travelled to Cuba with my family and had a wonderful trip! The trip was a great opportunity to write a blog post as I encountered a buffet on a number of occasions and noticed many dangers that could occur for someone with food allergies when eating at a buffet. One interesting observation I made that I have noted throughout this post is that buffets are problematic, not only for people with allergies, but also for people who do not suffer from allergies.

cuba

This was my fourth time traveling to Cuba and I would most definitely consider myself a seasoned Cuba traveler. I know the ins and outs of staying safe and healthy while at a resort in the country. I often hear patrons complain about becoming ill, but I can proudly say I felt great from the moment I arrived until the moment I left as I played it safe with my food allergies. As I ate my safe meals, I couldn’t help but notice other customers visiting a buffet and noted some of the unique risks.

  1. Individual sets of tongs were used for different vessels containing different foods. These were then used to place food on a plate that already had food on it, and to push around various food items on patrons’ This poses a risk to allergy sufferers due to potential cross-contamination.
  1. Patrons used their hands to pick up food from vessels. Not only is this a serious health hazard, but the hands could have been in contact with an allergen prior to reaching into the container.
  1. Children laid both hands directly on top of plate piles and then reached for an entirely different plate. This is the same issue as in number 2.
  1. People would place food items that were on their plate back into vessels. This poses a risk of cross-contamination.
  1. People would use their plates multiple times rather than using a new plate for each new helping of food. This can be a health hazard and there is a risk of cross-contamination because the plate is potentially contaminated with allergens.

chinese food

There was no shortage of opportunity for me to be at risk of suffering from an allergic reaction.

For myself, I worked with the restaurant staff and felt comfortable with a few food stations and can share these tips:

  • I avoided all deserts. Nuts are commonly found in desserts and in the dessert section.
  • I avoided unidentifiable foods. If it is not clear what ingredients are in a dish than consuming it would be an unnecessary risk.
  • I selected food that was being cooked in front of me. If the food is cooked in front of me and it is a relatively simple dish such as grilled salmon, I consider it to be relatively safe. I can see what ingredients are included in the dish and how it is prepared. There is relatively less risk that patrons touched the food with either their hands or random tongs. I am weary of things that are cooked off site that do not have proper labelling.

At the end of the day, it’s important to ask yourself whether it’s worth trying to find safe food at a risky buffet, or whether choosing a more traditional restaurant is a better option for you.

For more information on observing at a restaurant to stay safe please refer to my post at https://whyriskit.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/asking-and-observing-when-dining-out/.

The One Time I Did Not Ask About Nuts In a Restaurant

My name is Mathew and I am allergic to all tree nuts and peanuts. Recently I was hosting an event that I was planning on presenting at, but my time to speak was preceded by a trip to the emergency room.

I have never had an anaphylactic reaction but I do know my allergy to nuts is severe enough that ingesting small amounts of the allergen may trigger a life-threatening reaction. The event I hosted included a variety of food options that at first glance contained no nuts of any sort. On the tables there were vegetarian and non-vegetarian pizzas as well as meat and cheese trays.

Leading up to the presentation, I was somewhat nervous and wasvery focused on what I was going to say. I was somewhat hungry but I avoided food, not because of the risk of allergens, because I was very focused on my presentation. One of the people working with me handed me a slice of vegetarian pizza. I would normally ask a server, manager or owner about nuts but instead I quickly ate it and continued to work on the points I wanted to hit in my presentation. This may have been the first time I have ever forgot to ask about nuts because I was so focused on something else. Pizza, especially in a restaurant compared to a fast food chain, is a dish that one must always be careful with because of the potential for there to be nuts in pesto.

NewYorkSlice

Within a minute of finishing the pizza I felt tingling in the sides of my mouth, throat and lips. The feeling was very similar to what one would feel when they are getting their mouth frozen at the dentist. The cause quickly dawned on me. There must have been pesto on the pizza. I quickly told one of my fellow organizers that I was sure I was having a reaction and would likely have to leave for the hospital. I then found theowner to ask about nuts. The owner confirmed that therewere nuts in the pesto that was on the pizza I ate but a very minute amount. Although the reaction was not progressing very fast, I quickly had one of my co-workers drive me to the hospital emergency room because this is an experience that I have never had and did not want to take any chances.

Emergency

On my way I called my family to tell them where I was going and they said they would meet me there. Once I arrived at the hospital, I told the emergency staff of the situation and they assessed my status. I did not need immediate assistance but it was important that if I did, I was in a place that would be able to handle the reaction quickly. I had my auto-injector with me and I was ready to use it, but luckily it was not needed. The reaction did not progress any further than the minor swelling which eventually subsided after being given an antihistamine. I was grateful of my co-worker for getting me there quickly, as well as my family for coming to make sure that I was okay.

I learned a valuable lesson that day: it is critical to always ask the staff about the food you are eating at their restaurant. This is a priority above all else.

Going to Summer Camp with Allergies

Camp is a very fun way to enjoy summer, but for those of us with food allergies it may at first seem a little intimidating. If you manage it correctly however, it can definitely be a lot easier. Today more and more camps are becoming peanut and nut free. This is a great step to solve nut allergy issues, but there is still concern for all the other allergies. 800px-Canoagemcanada

Most kids start off attending day camp. With allergies this can be a bit tricky, but with simple communication, things should work out okay. Some camps ask all the kids to bring their lunch. If that is the case, then treat it like you would school. Sometimes however, the camp provides lunch. To prepare for this before camp starts, talk to the kitchen staff and ask for a menu or meal plan. Talk about what is in each dish, and if you or your child can have it or what else they can make for you or your child. If you cannot come up with anything to eat then maybe consider bringing your own lunch. In terms of the snacks that the camp may provide, talk to the camp just like you did for lunch to try and find a solution.

Sleep away camp can be scary for any child, but especially children with food allergies. Unlike day camp, you cannot pack every single meal, so you will have to do some real planning before camp. Talk to the camp, and maybe have the head of the kitchen come over. Talk about what type of food is usually safe for you, and what type of food is not. Also talk about what simple dishes you like to eat. Although you can’t bring up all of your meals, you can bring up some homemade food. Often, sleep away camps will have a rough menu of what meals they will serve. Talk about what type of food you could have as alternatives for the dishes you can’t eat. When you go up to camp, make sure there is somebody you can talk to as well as make sure you know where to get your food. Most camps will have a salad bar, so you can always go and take some salad, if this is a safe option. Camps will also usually serve plain pasta, which you can eat if that is also safe for you. Once at camp you will better understand what

there is for you to safely eat. . 792px-Camp_fire

Both day and sleep away camp are so much fun, and there is no reason that you should miss out just because of your allergies. Remember the most important part of camp is to have fun and remember your auto-injector! Have a great summer everyone!

Babysitting Allergy Dilemma

Babysitting is something a lot of teens do to make a few dollars but have you ever thought about the precautions you must take when you have allergies? The worst thing to happen is to have an allergic reaction when babysitting, as you are supposed to be taking care of other people.

Here’s a few allergy safe babysitting tips. First of all, if it is your first time babysitting for a family, make sure to tell them about your allergies. That way if you are feeding the kids, the food that you are giving them can be prepared to not have any of your allergens in it.

Second, when you babysit, parents sometimes tell you that you can eat one of their snacks. If you don’t feel comfortable eating their food, it is completely reasonable to bring your own snacks.  When you get to the babysitting house, make sure that there is none of your allergens lying around. If there is, politely ask the parents to store it out of sight, and not to take it out while you are there.  

 
Here is a little story that happened to me. I always thought that babysitting wasn’t something that was affected by my allergies. When I got to this one house, the parents asked me if I could make the kids dinner and feed them one hour from then. I said okay and asked what I should make. They said I should feed them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I told her I couldn’t because I was allergic to peanuts and they said they didn’t have any other food so I was going to have to make them that.

They left and I was in a panic because I did not know what to do. I called my mom who quickly brought over soy butter. I made them soy butter and jelly sandwiches. I told the kids that it was peanut butter and jelly and they seemed to have no idea that it was really soy butter. When the parents got home I told them that I didn’t feel comfortable feeding their kids if they were going to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the next time I went over, the parents luckily had something else for me to make them for dinner.

Here’s what I want you to remember from this story: it is always best to let the parents you are babysitting for know about your allergies before heading over for the first time to avoid awkward situations like this one.

Drinking with Allergies

*This article is meant for those who are legally allowed to drink alcohol, and as a “heads up” for teens of things to consider when they are of legal drinking age.

 

When I was 18, I took a bartending course and learned all about the different types of alcohols and cocktails. I was surprised to see how many drinks contained common allergens. According to Health Canada, any alcohol (except beer) that contains a priority allergen, gluten, or added sulfites, has to state that somewhere on the bottle. In my experience, companies are still catching up to that regulation, so you might have to do a little searching on the label or on the Internet to really find out what’s in a drink. Here is a short list of some cocktails and drinks that include common allergens:

Nuts

  • Certain
  • Certain liquors
  • Certain gins
  • Cocktails: Godfather, Alabama Slammer, Amaretto Sour, Blueberry Tea

Fish

  • Pretty much any cocktail that contains the words Bloody, Red, Mary or Caesar: Bloody Mary, Bloody Caesar, Red Zombie (contain Worcestershire sauce)

Egg

  • Eggnog, Tom and Jerry, Golden Fizz

Milk

  • Brown Cow, Blind Russian, White Russian, Brandy Alexander, Coco Cognac, Sombrero, Grasshopper, Pina Colada

I’ve worked at clubs, hotels, and restaurants, and these are a few things I think every person with allergies should know about most bartenders:

  • From my experience, when we don’t know how to make a specific cocktail and are too busy to look it up, we tend to wing it. Or, if we’re feeling creative, we might modify the recipe. This means that even if you know a certain cocktail is usually safe for you, there’s always a chance it’s not.
  • If it’s a really busy night and we’re making a lot of drinks using a cocktail shaker, the shaker is usually only rinsed under water for a few seconds before being used for the next drink. This means that residue from the last drink might still be present on the shaker or on the cap. If you’re at a bar and can see that the bartender is super busy, I recommend sticking with drinks that don’t require a shaker, like a simple vodka soda.
  • If you’re allergic to any kind of fruit, never drink anything that includes “punch”. Most of the time, punch is just a mixture of a bunch of different fruit juices, like apple, pineapple, orange, strawberry-kiwi, grapefruit, etc.
  • Tip well! If a bartender remembers you as a good tipper, they’re more likely to be amenable to your requests. For example, if you know you can’t have Beefeater and request Tanqueray instead, a bartender that likes you will be more likely to help you out. It is still important however to ensure bartenders are aware of your allergies when ordering!

To sum it all up, be vigilant and be safe! Communicating with a bartender in a loud and busy setting can be tricky, so when in doubt, stick with simple drinks. Don’t let yourself get peer-pressured into trying your friend’s drink, or taking shots of an unknown drink because the whole group is doing it. You can still drink and have a great time while keeping yourself safe. Be sure that the friends you go out with know about your allergies and where you keep your epinephrine. Most importantly, have fun!

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!

Developing Allergies During Your Teenage Years

Developing allergies later in life can be a difficult adjustment, but is doable!

Developing allergies later in life can be a difficult adjustment, but it’s doable!

Most people are diagnosed with allergies at a very young age, but for some people they are developed unexpectedly later in life. I was diagnosed at age thirteen with allergies to strawberries, pineapple, cashew and coconut. These were foods that I had eaten all my life and had never imagined I would be allergic to. Before I even had time to process this new change in my life, I was thrown into a world of auto-injectors, reading food labels and everything else that comes along with having food allergies.

I will admit that at age thirteen and going into high school, I was not interested in being different than my peers. I was in denial about having allergies and didn’t want to accept the fact that this was just something I had to deal with. I felt alone and didn’t realize that there were so many other people going through the same things. In the beginning, I often left my auto-injectors at home because I just wouldn’t take responsibility and face the fact that I had allergies. But, what I didn’t realize was that there is a whole community of people who have allergies and have been through the same things. Through research and support from my friends and family, I was able to adapt to having allergies. At first I though my life would completely change and I wouldn’t be able to do the same things as I had before, but with a little effort and determination I can! My life is just like everyone else’s, I have a job, I am going to go to university, and I am social with friends and much more!

Always remember that you are not alone! The best thing you can do when you are first diagnosed with allergies is to find support. Look online to see if your city has a support group where you can meet other people who are experiencing the same things. Joining Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) has really helped me to meet people and share my experiences. Another great tip is to express how you are feeling and turn your negative situations into positive ones by helping others! Start a blog about your life with allergies and let others know any tips or tricks you have for living with allergies! Developing allergies when your older can be tricky at first, but it makes you a lot stronger! Always stay positive and remember that there are people who understand and support you.

Anaphylaxis Canada's Youth Advisory Panel

Join Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel to meet other youth with food allergies.

Dessert Dilemma

Enjoying each other's company

I had a pretty scary encounter recently that would have been easily preventable if I had trusted my instincts and not let myself get distracted. I had been going on dates with a girl I knew from high school and she is a peanut butter fanatic. When I say fanatic, I truly mean FANATIC. She has it for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. So, being allergic to peanuts, this posed a huge dilemma for me. I made it very clear on the first few dates about how serious my allergy was and I avoided kissing her until I had developed a sense of trust. In the beginning, she never realized that I can’t eat foods that state “may contain peanut” or even Nutella. I can only imagine the learning curve that she was thrown into!

So let’s fast forward to the meat and potatoes of my story. I met up with her one night and the first thing I asked was, did you have any nuts today? And she said, “Nope, I went out of my way to make sure I didn’t have anything!” So, trusting this, we kissed and I thought nothing of it. Later on, she was telling me about how she was at her grandma’s and that she had an amazing blueberry crumble for dessert. That was when my first red flag creeped into vision. I get a weird feeling about any desserts, as most of them have nuts. So when I heard crumble, I was worried. But she told me she didn’t have any nuts right?! So I let it slide.

Before I left her house, she asked if I wanted any of the crumble because she brought some home and I instantly declined (it’s a habit to decline desserts, again, because I don’t trust them!) Good thing too, because when she pulled it out, what’s on top of the crumble? SLICED ALMONDS! So now I’m panicking inside and don’t want to alarm her, so I just said I had to go and when I left, I had a really bad stomach ache. I wasn’t sure if I scared myself into an anxiety attack or if I was having a real reaction, so I kept a close watch and made sure I had my auto-injector close at hand. As I started to calm myself, the stomach ache went away and I consider myself really lucky that I somehow escaped this situation unharmed. Needless to say, I now always ask her exactly what she ate that day and the day before, just to be sure I cover all my bases before moving in for the kiss. Also, to her credit, she learned from this encounter and is becoming super cautious with what she eats when she knows she will be seeing me in the next 24 hours.

Lessons Learned from an Allergic Reaction

Emergency

I am Mathew and I am allergic to all nuts. This blog post is about a close friend of mine who recently suffered an anaphylactic reaction.

On September 17, my friend left class to grab lunch. She ordered a chicken gyro from a new Greek restaurant on campus. She took the meal to go and got on a bus to commute home. When she was half way through her meal, she started experiencing symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction. Her face was swelling, her throat was itchy and she was experiencing chest and stomach pain. She did not have an auto-injector with her because she left it in her gym bag and forgot to put it in her school bag. She decided to get off the bus to find a cab. The cab driver took her to the hospital. Once she got into the emergency room, the hospital staff quickly identified that she was experiencing anaphylaxis and gave her a shot of epinephrine. She was placed in a hospital bed, hooked up to intravenous and was monitored for 8 hours before being released from the hospital. It took two days for the effects of the reaction to leave her system.

Although the story is very simple, there are three valuable lessons to be learned from this person’s experience:

1. Always ask about allergens when ordering food. As you may have noticed, she did not ask the restaurant about how they do, or do not accommodate allergies. Although what caused the reaction is not clear, it is highly likely that cross-contamination may have occurred. One can only speculate as to how the allergen got into the food but it is possible that the cross-contamination issues could have been identified if she had asked about the food before ordering it.

2. Always carry an auto-injector. As I stated above, she did not have her auto-injector with her. One must always have it with them because you never know when a reaction will occur. Kudos to her for taking it to the gym because 57% of people do not carry their auto-injector with them at the gym(1). She could have treated herself on the bus if she had the auto-injector with her.

3. Always call 911 if experiencing a reaction. It’s important you do not try to drive yourself to a hospital during a reaction. An ambulance stocks life-saving medicine and can provide timely treatment on the way to a hospital.

(1) Sampson MA, Muñoz-Furlong A, Sicherer SH: Risk-taking and coping strategies of adolescents and young adults with food allergy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2006, 117:1440-1445.