The Children’s Allergy & Asthma Education Centre (CAAEC), Winnipeg, Manitoba invites teens ages 12-16 years with food allergy to the Allergy Lounge. Connect, learn and share with other teens with food allergy – Thursday November 20th from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.
Anaphylaxis Canada would like to congratulate the recipients of the fifth annual Sabrina Shannon Memorial Award: Sydney Harris (Barrie, ON) and Katherine Li (Calgary, AB). Sydney and Katherine were selected from a total of 88 applicants for their demonstrated commitment to raising awareness and educating others about severe allergies.
Sydney is 18 years old and will be entering her first year of a pre-health sciences program at Georgian College, Ontario. Since being diagnosed with food allergies at age 13, she has actively raised allergy awareness at her school through presentations for her classmates, and by providing anaphylaxis training to her high school teachers. She has also maintained a blog -“A Tale of Anaphylaxis”- where she provides tips and support for other teens with food allergies. Sydney has also been an active member of Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel for which she has written educational articles, exhibited at health fairs, and developed and delivered various conference presentations. Sydney was also a mentor in the first Allergy Pals Online Mentorship Program in 2014.
Katherine is 19 years old and starting her second year of studies at McGill University, Quebec, where she is a part of the McGill Student Emergency Response Team (M-SERT). She has helped treat anaphylactic reactions on campus and educated fellow students on recognizing symptoms of anaphylaxis. Although she does not have food allergies herself, her interest in the condition led her to seek a two month summer internship at Dr. Wayne Shreffler’s lab at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Immunology and Inflammatory Diseases and Food Allergy Research Center. There she gained first-hand lab and clinical knowledge on oral immunotherapy treatment among other research.
Anaphylaxis Canada would like to thank all of the award applicants for their initiative, creativity, and commitment to raising allergy awareness and educating others in their communities. We received many excellent applications from across the country, and selecting recipients was not an easy task.
The Sabrina Shannon Memorial Award is dedicated to the life of Sabrina Shannon, an inspiring teenager who suffered a fatal anaphylactic reaction in 2003. During her life, Sabrina worked to raise allergy awareness by creating the first-person radio documentary, “A Nutty Tale,” which aired on CBC radio in 2001. Since her passing, Sabrina’s parents and other members of the allergy community have kept her spirit alive by advocating for allergy-safe schools and communities. In 2005, Sabrina’s Law was passed in Ontario, providing landmark legislation that has influenced anaphylaxis policies in schools across Canada.
We are proud to honour Sabrina’s memory with this award and the Sabrina Shannon Legacy Fund.
The Sabrina Shannon Memorial Award is made possible through an educational grant from TD Securities.
The last thing I expected to find myself doing on a Saturday night was sitting in the emergency room of the Children’s Hospital in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The thing is, I’m not even from St. John’s. I’m here for a month long summer program at Memorial University, where my day is planned to the minute and this was definitely not scheduled! So what happened?
It was Indian food night (my favourite!) I LOVE spicy food but I’m always very careful when ordering it to avoid menu items with nuts, since I’m allergic. I also make a point of letting the staff know about the severity of my allergies. This time however, it wasn’t me doing the ordering. The food had been catered, and I checked with the program staff to ensure nothing contained nuts, which they assured me was indeed the case.
There were no labels on any of the foods so I had no idea what I actually ate, apart from lots of Naan bread. Something didn’t agree with me and I felt it immediately. My throat felt thick and weird, but I just attributed that to the effect of the spices in the food. I tried to calm myself down because I was assured there weren’t any nuts in the food and I trusted the word of the program staff.
When I got back to my room a little while later, I didn’t feel any better. In fact, I felt worse: nauseous and bloated. After telling one of the program assistants how I was feeling, I took an anti-histamine and decided to lie down. After about an hour, I began to feel itchy and realized I was developing hives. At this point, I still had not given myself my auto-injector because the reaction wasn’t one I was prepared for. I have always been told to be aware of an itchy tongue and swelling of the lips, but I didn’t have either of these symptoms, which threw me off. Eventually, one of my friends came to check on me and told the program assistants that I did not look good. They quickly took me to the hospital across the street where it turns out I was, in fact, having an allergic reaction. To what? Who knows! The doctors in the emergency room gave me an IV of anti-histamine, a steroid, and a medication to calm the nausea. I felt better almost immediately and watched as my hives slowly disappeared. The doctor said that in retrospect, I should have given myself my auto-injector because by the time I would have felt like I was actually having an allergic reaction, it may have been too late for me to do it myself.
I learned a lot from this experience, even though I thought I knew everything there was for a teen to know about her allergies. The truth is, every reaction is different, and some take hours to progress – like mine that night. On top of that, they don’t always have the same symptoms. I’ve always had an itchy tongue when having an allergic reaction, but not that night. What I know now is that it is absolutely vital to ALWAYS carry your auto-injector with you, and to ALWAYS wear your MedicAlert bracelet. More importantly, ALWAYS go to the hospital if you don’t feel right, especially after eating a suspicious food. And don’t worry – I felt no pain from my treatment at the hospital, only relief, so there is no need to be scared of what will happen to you there. The medical professionals will save your life, which is a feeling that is incomparable!
As for Indian food, I’ll probably stay away from it for a while, but I don’t want this incident to stop me from living a full life. It just reminds me to always be alert for my allergens, and to listen to my body when it’s telling me something isn’t right. I still enjoy Indian food, but now I know that it is a possible trigger for me and I must be extra careful when ordering it.
I hope that by sharing my experience it will remind you to always take your allergies seriously and get to the hospital when necessary. I stayed calm through the entire experience and tried to think rationally – this can really help when you’re unsure about whether you’re having a reaction or not. Never let anyone tell you that you’re just being panicky either – if YOU think you’re having an allergic reaction, then you need to get to the hospital, no matter what anyone else thinks.
Stay safe everyone!
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!
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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- People would place food items that were on their plate back into vessels. This poses a risk of cross-contamination.
- 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.
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/.
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.
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.
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.
Summer is a great time to try out new kinds of makeup and fun color combinations. But a lot of people aren’t aware of all the different ingredients that go into makeup. This is especially important for people with allergies. An allergy to a makeup product might manifest as redness, itchiness, hives or blisters; so it’s important to know what’s in your makeup.
One of the most surprising ingredients in makeup I’ve come across is fish. It’s usually listed as “pearlescence” in the ingredients list (probably because no one wants to put fish on their face). It’s found mostly in lipstick and is used to make it shiny, like the scales on a fish. You can find more details about it at the following links:
If you’re allergic to fish and want to be safe, there are companies like Smashbox that don’t use any animal byproducts in…
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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