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

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.

March Break

Hello everybody! My name is Karen, and I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and soy protein.

March Break is here – and if you’re like me, we’re unfortunately staying home for the holidays. It just so happens that we won’t be lying in the sun or hitting the slopes. But there are still fun and new things that you can do in your hometown, while staying allergen free!

This week, a few of my friends and I have planned events that will take us through the week in no time. Maybe you’d like to try them out too. We’ll be going bowling, eating out, cooking dinner, and visiting my sister at university. There will be a few times where I’ll need to take extra precautions, but if I’m prepared everything should go just fine.

Cooking with allergies

What’s your favourite allergy-safe recipe?

One night, we’re going to cook dinner together out of a new recipe book. It is always fun to try new recipes, especially because you are the chef and can make sure that you’re staying safe. Because I’m cooking with my friends, we picked the recipes together to ensure that I will be able to eat everything that we are making. We’re planning to go to the grocery store together, and I’ll be checking all the ingredient lists, just to be safe. One of my biggest challenges, though, is that we won’t be cooking in my kitchen. I’ve asked my friend to make sure that all the dishes and utensils will be safe for the night a few days in advance so that there won’t be any cross-contamination.

We’re also planning to try a new restaurant. Sometimes this can be a little risky – but as long as I call ahead and let them know of my allergy, things will hopefully go well and they will be able to accommodate me. I take many of the same steps as Noah does (check out his previous entry), and so far I’ve had great experiences!

Teens eating outsideThe most exciting part of our week, however, is when we go to visit my sister in university. We’ll be staying at her house with her roommates. I have never met any of them, and I’m sure none of them know about my allergy. I have already asked my sister to ensure that the kitchen is allergen-free, since that will be a common area for everyone, and to let them know about my allergy. I have already looked into potential restaurants that we could be eating at, looked into their menu, and called to make sure that their meals will be safe for me. Of course, when we make a final decision, I’ll call again and let them know about my allergy and double-check that everything will be okay.

Even though I won’t be going very far this March Break, I still want to have some fun! As long as I take those extra steps and bring my auto-injector, I’ve done what I can to be prepared.

What will you be doing this March Break? And how are you keeping safe?