My Wake-up Call

Since developing my food allergies at thirteen I have had to use an auto-injector several times, but there is one reaction that sticks out in my memory the most. I was in grade eleven at the time and was going out for lunch with friends during a typical school day. Sometimes with food allergies, you don’t want to be different than your peers and want to feel like you can do everything that they can.

chinese foodMy friends wanted to go out for Chinese food and I completely went ahead with the plans without even thinking about possible allergens or the precautions I needed to take. It was completely irresponsible and one of my biggest mistakes. For the most part, I was responsible with my food allergies, but I never realized how serious they actually were. I devoured my delicious Chinese food with my girlfriends not even knowing what was about to happen. By the time we arrived back at the school I began to feel the familiar feelings of anaphylaxis that I knew too well. Before I knew it my teacher was administering my auto-injector, followed by a second dose as symptoms worsened. As the ambulance raced down the highway they gave me a third dose and I knew things were bad.

As I lay on the stretcher regret and guilt came over me. I had put my life at risk all for one meal with friends because I didn’t want to be different and worry about my allergies. Thankfully, once I arrived at the emergency room my symptoms slowly subsided. It was really a close call where I learned many valuable lessons.

I really don’t mean to scare people with this story, but the fact is, it scared me and want others to know that situations like this are preventable. Anaphylaxis is very serious, but with a little bit of effort and initiative you can do everything that your peers can, safely and effectively. This reaction was my wake up call. Since then I have checked labels, informed restaurant staff, planned ahead, and been responsible for my health and safety. Less than a month after this reaction, I became involved with Anaphylaxis Canada’s Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) and have learned a lot about allergies and myself since then. Being able to share my experiences and help others has been an amazing experience. To conclude, use this story as a wakeup call, don’t wait for a life-threatening situation to occur to realize the severity. Stand up, be responsible and be safe!

Food Allergies and Potlucks – Should I stay or should I go?

With allergies, comes decision-making; should I eat this, should I go there, should I risk it? You need to remember to always do what is right for you! You know what situations may be dangerous for you and need to do what is best for your health and safety.

With the holidays quickly approaching, potlucks are upon us. Trusting other people with food allergies can often be a tricky thing to do. Last year I had a negative experience with a school potluck that is making me reconsider my decision to attend this year. Everyone was informed of the allergens that were not to be brought to the potluck, but people forgot and they were present. I was not comfortable eating any of the food and left the room, as there was food on most surfaces.

Pot lucks can be a tricky situation at any holiday event

Pot lucks can be a tricky situation at any holiday event.

It was upsetting as I had been looking forward to the Christmas party and all my friends were able to participate. With this year’s potluck being this Friday, I am in the decision process of trying to decide whether or not I am comfortable in attending. Having food allergies can make it difficult to trust others with something as simple as food.

Best Practice - Write out all of the ingredients on the dish you bring.

Best Practice – Write out all of the ingredients on the dish you bring.

With situations like this, don’t worry about what anyone will think and do what is right for you. My teacher has posted the allergens on all the invitations and sign up sheets so I might attend. I have till Friday to decide, but in the end I will only do what I am truly comfortable with. That is just something that comes with food allergies! Have you ever had a tricky situation where you have had to decide whether you would participate or not?

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.

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?

Reaction-free in cottage country!

Summer vacation is all about relaxing and having fun with friends and family! During the summer, I visit my friends’ cottages and always have a great time. Spending all day on the lake, fishing, tubing, and having campfires, is what summer is all about. Of course, having allergies does involve some planning, but it’s totally worth it!

Two friends standing on the pier at the lake.

Here are some tips to have a reaction-free visit to a friend’s cottage:

  1. Always bring at least two epinephrine auto-injectors! When you’re away from home, it is always best to be prepared.
  2. Make sure you let your friend and their parents know about your allergies.  Before going away to a friend’s cottage, my parents and I always discuss my allergies with my friend and their parents. Informing them of my allergies and letting them know about my auto-injector really helps them feel more confident about me staying with them.
  3. Learn where the nearest hospital is, just to be safe.
  4. Leave your parents with the cottage phone number and directions to the cottage so they can find their way in an emergency.
  5. Talk with your friend about what you will be eating and if they have any questions on how to prepare safe meals for you.
  6. Bring some allergy-safe snacks, just in case.
  7. Don’t leave your auto-injector in the direct sunlight and heat.
  8. Bring your auto-injector with you everywhere. It may feel silly to bring it with you tubing or kayaking, but anaphylaxis can occur at anytime.
  9. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy yourself!

By following these tips, you can have a reaction-free trip to a friend’s cottage. Some of my best summer memories are with my friends. My friends are so understanding about my allergies and have no problem accommodating me. Be safe and have fun! 🙂

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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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Staying Safe at Easter with Allergies

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Easter is quickly approaching and that does not mean that you have to avoid all Easter candies and not participate in traditional Easter activities! There is always a way to make some accommodations so you can enjoy your holidays with family and friends. Here are my tips on how you can make sure your allergies don’t hold you back.

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What to put in your Easter basket!

Like most holidays, Easter involves Candy… but don’t worry there is all kinds of allergen free treats to add to your Easter basket. Here are some suggestions:

  • Some brands of mini-eggs are nut-free.
  • Some marshmallow chicks are free of many common allergens.
  • Homemade Easter goodies are a great idea (Check-out Hannah’s blog post for some delicious Easter recipes!)
  • There are a variety of allergen free chocolate Easter bunnies on the market, so take a long hard look at their labels.
  • You can also take plastic Easter eggs and fill them with little gifts like hair accessories, coins, gift cards etc.

*Always remember to read labels and confirm with companies.

Easter Egg Hunt Tips

No matter how old you are, an Easter egg hunt is always fun! Large community egg hunts can be scary with allergies so I recommend planning your own. Invite some friends and family over and hide allergen free treats and small gifts. By planning the event you will ensure that you are as safe as possible and everyone is sure to have fun!


Still love to decorate eggs?

Are you allergic to eggs but still love to decorate Easter eggs? Look no further, we have a solution! You can always decorate plastic, wood, Styrofoam or ceramic eggs!!! Get as creative as possible; add some stickers, paint, ribbon and gems. Your Easter eggs are sure to look great and no one will know the difference.Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 11.25.48 AM

I hope these tips help you enjoy an allergen free Easter weekend! Always remember that holidays are about spending time with family and friends. If you’re not interested in egg hunts or candy, get outside and enjoy the spring weather! Go for a walk, ride your bike and enjoy yourself. Have a great weekend!

Comment if you have any Easter tips for living with allergies!

 

Magically Allergen-Free

Magically Allergy SafeMy name is Sydney and I am sixteen. I am allergic to strawberry, pineapple, coconut and cashew. This past March break I travelled to Disney World in Florida with my family and had an amazing vacation. This was my first time travelling to Disney since I developed my allergies, but it was a very stress-free trip because I found Disney to be quite accommodating for my allergies. Vacations with allergies are always more enjoyable when you know that you’ve thoroughly planned ahead so you can feel safe. Here are some of my tips for travelling to Disney with your allergies:

Magically Allergy Free

1. Book your dinner reservations online ahead of time. This way you know what to expect and have some peace of mind in advance.

2. When booking online, Disney restaurants should have an allergy option. Choose this so that when you arrive, the restaurant staff members will already be aware and ready to accommodate.

3. When your waiter/ waitress arrives at your table they should tell you that the chef will be out as soon as possible to help you pick your meal (if not, be sure to ask!). The chef will make sure he/she prepares your meal so that it is as safe as possible. Be sure to tell the chef ALL of your allergies.

4. When your meal is served it will most likely have a toothpick in it that has the word “allergy” written on it. This is to reassure you that your meal was specially prepared and that the chef cooked it in an as safe as possible environment.

5. Florida can get pretty hot so remember to keep your auto-injector out of the sun!

6. Remember to enjoy yourself and relax!


I hope these tips help you on any future trips to the most magical place in the world!