A New Blog for Young Adults with Allergies

House-mates

Anaphylaxis Canada is happy to announce their newest blog for allergic adults located at http://www.adultswithallergies.com.

The blog covers situations that allergic adults can appreciate such as food allergies and relationships, allergies in the workplace, alcohol ingredient labelling, international travel, and lifestyle articles such as food allergies and pop culture.

The Adults with Allergies blog is funded by a grant from TD Securities. Anaphylaxis Canada is appreciative of their support of our youth program and the opportunity to create resources for teens and young adults.

The blog, hosted on WordPress, allows users to follow/subscribe to the blog. If you are an allergic adult and interested in joining the writing team, please get in touch with Anaphylaxis Canada at http://www.adultswithallergies.com/contact.

Read more about the new blog at http://www.anaphylaxis.ca/en/media/hot_topics.html?news_id=72

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My Summer in Whistler

When I first started to write this blog entry, I just wanted to share with you how I have spent my summer. Ironically, since that evening a few days ago, I experienced an allergic reaction. So, now, I have a slightly different story to tell.

First off, my name is Karen, and I’m allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. I am currently working in Whistler, British Columbia this summer at a hotel. This is the first time I’ve worked away from home for a longer period of time. Whistler is an amazing place, especially during the summer. You can hike, zipline, bungee jump, canoe, go white water rafting, ski and snowboard, or go swimming at the lake. I have been here for just over 2 months, enjoying every minute of it.

I live with a roommate, and we have our own kitchen, where I cook a lot of meals, instead of going out. She arrived a few days earlier than I did, and so, did her own grocery shopping ahead of time. The first night I got here, I found a jar of peanut butter sitting in our cupboard. I quickly explained my allergies to her, and now the jar, plate, and knife that she used are sitting in a separate corner of the kitchen, and has not been touched for the past couple months.

Since I am still in Canada, communicating with others about my allergies at new restaurants is not very difficult, considering there is no language barrier, and that many people are familiar with food allergies. So, luckily for me, I’ve been able to try new foods, and enjoy new restaurants, with the help of friendly waiters and chefs.

At work, I have met some of the most incredible and friendliest people who I never want to leave behind, as I go back to school in September. Everyone is really kind and open, so sharing with them that I have allergies was really easy.

In the hotel, as staff, we have our own kitchen where we receive a hot meal every day. The very first day of work, I spoke with the head chef about my food allergies, and was assured that they did not cook with nuts in the kitchen. I decided to stay away from the baked goods though, because they came from a different bakery.

So, as of a few days ago, I had been reaction-free for at least a year, maybe two. Unfortunately, I had a reaction while at work. I had just eaten lunch, and I didn’t think about asking questions because I trusted that everything was allergen free, considering I had been eating the same meals every week. As I was upstairs in the hotel, doing my job, I started feeling nauseous, blaming the fact that my food just was not settling well. Several minutes went by, and I noticed that my hands were getting tingly and turning very red. That was when I started to question what was happening.

I proceeded downstairs to the manager’s office, and explained that I may be having an allergic reaction, but was unsure yet because nothing else had progressed. I grabbed both of my auto-injectors, and took a seat, cautious of what may be happening. People came in and out of the office, concerned about me, because I apparently looked worse than I felt. I had not noticed how red my face had gotten, but when I finally took a look in the mirror, clearly my reaction had escalated. Minutes later, I was wheezing and had a few hives, so I used my auto-injector and was driven to the emergency clinic (in the hotel’s valet car, which was so cool!). I know I should have used my auto-injector right away, but I did not feel  the way I looked, if that makes sense. I was admitted immediately, and then placed under observation.

Throughout this whole ordeal, I learned that my being outspoken about my allergies has been in my favour. My co-workers were all supportive, and concerned, and thankfully, understood what was going on. Those that were with me knew what to do in the event of a bigger emergency, they were trained on how to use an auto-injector, and they remained calm, which really helped me out.

While I was sitting in the office, I learned about other co-workers allergies, and their experiences of having work-related reactions. I also spoke to a hotel guest, who thought I was just holding my auto-injector for no reason, who offered some information about it because he had one too. Additionally, I learned that people really do understand that carrying epinephrine is so important for someone with anaphylaxis.

In case you are wondering, my supervisor and I followed up with the chef, but we are still in the process of pinpointing what may have triggered my reaction. I am more cautious now when I eat at work, but that paranoia will likely disappear, especially now that I am asking more questions. I am grateful for all the people who I was surrounded by, and as I spend my last month here in BC, I am confident that I can enjoy the rest of my summer, regardless of this allergic reaction.ziplining photo

On the hunt for a job!

This summer, I have been busy applying for part-time jobs. I have filled out several applications and handed out piles of resumes – but so far nothing.

Since I have food, allergies I’m limited to where I can apply. Obviously, working in the food industry isn’t the best choice for me, so I’m focused on applying to retail and sales associate positions.

Two years ago, I had my first job at a restaurant, but I had to resign as my allergies became more severe. While working there, I did learn a lot about being an advocate for myself in a professional setting.

If you get a new job, and you have food allergies, it’s important to:

  1. Inform whoever is interviewing you about your allergies as soon as possible. This is something you don’t want to hide – and they may even find your story inspiring!
  2. Always have your auto-injector with you at work, and let a few co-workers know where it is, just in case!
  3. Don’t put yourself in risky situations! Is your life really worth a few extra dollars??
  4. Don’t be embarrassed! They can’t refuse to hire you because you have allergies. This is your life and something you are living with!

As teenagers and young adults, it’s important to gain confidence and experience through a part-time job. Ensuring that you are safe at work will help you stay confident and reaction-free.

I’m still continuing on my search for a new job, but I know when I find one, I’ll remember these tips and have a safe work experience.

How have you handled a part time job with your food allergies?

An Unlikely Close Call…in a Hospital!

Trust Me, I'm a Nursing StudentMy name is Sydney and I am a second year nursing student at Queen’s University. This past week I came very close to coming in contact with my allergens (peanuts and tree nuts) in a hospital. One day of every week we have a class in which we spend the entire day in a hospital. It was my first day so I had no idea what to expect! I arrived that morning at 6:30am – it wasn’t even light out yet!

The day started off well with each of the students being paired with a nurse in order to ‘shadow’ them and get a better idea of what to expect when working in a hospital setting. After giving all our patients’ their medications, it was time for breakfast. I was assigned to feeding a man who was unable to hold a fork or spoon by himself. As soon as the nurse passed me his tray, I noticed the package of peanut butter sitting beside the toast. This is where things got tricky.

I brought the tray to the patient and asked him if he wouldn’t mind substituting another spread for the peanut butter since I was allergic. Unfortunately he didn’t want to try anything else. This left me in the awkward position of going back to find the nurse and telling her that I couldn’t feed this patient. I felt terrible that I had to back out of the only task assigned to me. The nurse wasn’t so thrilled either, to be honest – she looked slightly annoyed. I stood outside the room while the nurse completed the task, which seemed like it took forever! At that point I was assigned to go retrieve a chart from the break room. I was excited to finally be able to help out. Once again, my excitement was short lived. As soon as I entered the break room, I saw (and smelled) one of the other nurses eating a peanut butter sandwich while reading my patients chart. When I stopped right in my tracks, everyone stared at me. I was so embarrassed that I turned around and quickly walked away. Luckily I remembered about the plentiful supply of gloves in the hospital, so I donned a pair and returned to retrieve the chart. Regardless of the silly looks, I felt safe, and that is what matters.

Next week, I am going to make sure I carry my auto-injector on me while working in case I get into a sticky situation again. I never would have thought before this year that I might need to use my own epinephrine in a hospital! Now I know, when I say I carry my auto-injector, I literally mean: EVERYWHERE!

Allergies at Work

Hello everyone! My name is Nick, and I’m an 18-year-old with severe allergies to peanuts and all tree nuts.

Recently, I finished my first year of university and received a summer job working as a Business Analyst. It has been a brand new experience for me, since it’s my first time working in an office.

Office with computer terminals

When I started work, one of the questions that popped up in my head was, “What was I going to do about my allergies?” Despite it being a totally new experience, I treated the situation like I was at high school or university. Spreading knowledge is the best defense against allergic reactions!

The first thing that I did was let Human Resources know that I had a peanut and tree nut allergy before I started work. This was convenient, since they were going to host a lunch for the students who were working for them, and they were able to make it allergy safe. Then I told my supervisor and the people who I sat around. I told them that I carry an epinephrine auto-injector, and I explained how to use it in the case of a reaction. Lastly, I followed the same allergy smart practices I would follow in any other situation, by reading food labels whenever food was offered and asking for ingredient information when not provided. Hopefully, I should have a safe and fun summer!!

For more tips on staying safe at work, check out these links:

And don’t forget to tell us about your experiences with allergies at work, by leaving a comment below.

I hope that you enjoyed my blog post, and I wish you all an allergy safe summer!

My Time as a Page

Hi, I’m Emily Rose. I’m 13 years old and allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

Page UniformIn November and December of 2011, I served as a Page at Queen’s Park, The Legislative Assembly for Ontario.  My job was to be a mailman or delivery person for Members of Provincial Parliament.  I had to know all the MPP’s by name, where they sat, and what Riding they were from.  I studied for weeks to prepare! When I started on my first day, I was so scared.

Being a Page was scary enough, but my allergy gave me some extra anxiety. It was the first time that I was alone to deal with my allergies for myself.  My parents were 2 hours away, and I had sole responsibility to check my food.

My teacher there was very helpful.  She put up signs in every room of the Page Quarters and made sure that all of the Security Staff knew about my allergy. Plus, whenever special lunches were served, the Page Staff ensured that the meal was free of peanuts, before I even asked.

Even with all that help, things did not always go according to plan.  There are two lobbies, one on each side of the Chamber where I worked.  The MPP’s would meet there to discuss things.  One day, someone delivered peanut butter cookies, and I could not go into either of the lobbies for the whole day.  To make things more challenging, there was a point in the day when I was the only Page on duty in the Chamber.  When a MPP asked me to get something from the lobby, it was very embarrassing to have to explain that I am allergic to peanuts and could not go into either of the lobbies.  Everyone was very kind and understanding.  My fellow Pages were helpful in getting things that I needed, and it all turned out okay.

While I was working as a Page, I got to meet The Honourable Dave Levac, the MPP who introduced Ontario’s Sabrina’s Law. I remembered who he was from a documentary about Sabrina’s Law. I wanted to say something to him, but I was not allowed – because I was not allowed to be Partisan, which means  favouring one Party or MPP or another. So, I got my Mom to send him an e-mail, telling him that I was a Page and allergic to peanuts and very excited to be there.

By coincidence, I was one of two Page Captains that walked him into the Chamber on his inaugural entrance. The next day, I was cleaning up water glasses and was just about to leave when I heard someone calling my name.  At first, I was a little freaked out – but then I remembered the e-mail and knew who it was. Dave Levac was the one calling my name, so I went around the corner and talked to him.  He asked me about my allergies and if I carried my epinephrine auto-injector, which I always do.

I was so excited to meet Dave Levac, and I had such a great time at Queen’s Park.  I wish I could have stayed there longer.  To any new or prospective Pages, I wish you good luck and know that you will have the best time of your life!

Newspaper Article

The Independent Free Press, January 19, 2012: http://www.theifp.ca/community/serendipitious-meeting

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!