All posts by Adults with Allergies Blog Editor

Explaining My Food Allergies Series: To Children

Child scratching head with question mark on blackboard concept for confusion, brainstorming and choice

I am twenty-five and currently do not have any children of my own. However, as a school teacher, I interact with children on a daily basis. I have taught students in kindergarten all the way up to grade six. Obviously, my language and delivery may have changed slightly, but I never hesitated to talk to my students about my food allergies.

To me, it is important to have this dialogue with them as we spend a lot of time together. With my students, I discuss that my allergens have to stay outside of the classroom. This is my way of minimizing the risk of an allergic reaction. However, if a child brings snap peas as a snack, or a sesame seed bagel for lunch, I allow them to indulge outside in the schoolyard or in the lunchroom.

Another management strategy I teach children in my class is about hand washing. Generally speaking, this is a great discussion to have with children as it addresses good hygienic practices. I encourage my students to wash their hands before and after they eat. Before eating is obvious—it helps to eliminate germs entering your system. After eating is also important as it eliminates the presence of any known allergens since other students and staff in the school may be allergic to foods other than peanuts.

I also discuss the possibility of an emergency situation. The language I use varies depending on the age of students, but I try to stress the importance of notifying another adult as soon as possible. For example, running to another classroom, notifying someone via the P.A system, or just calling for help. With older grades, I discuss common signs and symptoms and the proper use of my EpiPen®. I have some resources, like books and videos, that I read or show to the class to further discuss this topic. I have held Q&A sessions with my students to ensure they get clarification on any information about food allergies.  Interestingly enough, these conversations can often be linked back to the Ontario Health Curriculum.

Some students come to class with a lot of prior knowledge about food allergies perhaps because a family member or friend has an allergy. Keep the age, maturity level, and exposure to this topic in mind when talking to children about allergies. I ensure that I adjust my vocabulary and message accordingly. Here are some sample phrases I’ve used before:

  • “I am allergic to [insert allergen] which means that if I eat these foods I can have a serious allergic reaction. My symptoms might include a rash or trouble breathing.”
  • “If I have an allergic reaction from eating [insert allergen], I may have to use my EpiPen® and go to a hospital for further treatment.”
  • “I hope you understand that [insert allergen] isn’t something that can come into the classroom because I don’t want to risk having an allergic reaction.”
  • “I noticed that you ate a snack with [insert allergen] at recess. Could you please go wash your hands?”
  • “If you notice any signs of an allergic reaction, can you please notify another teacher? What are some ways you could notify another teacher?”

Furthermore, here is an excerpt from the Ontario Curriculum (Grade 1 section):

  • “Students will apply their knowledge of essential safety practices to take an active role in their own safety at school (e.g., inform teacher of allergies, be aware of food safety issues, play in supervised areas, follow safe routines for travelling to and from school)
    Teacher prompt: “What are some things that students may be allergic to?”
    Student: “They may be allergic to nuts and other foods, bee stings, or medicine.”
    Teacher: “What can we do to make the classroom as safe as possible?”
    Student: “We should not bring anything that might have nuts in it to school. People with allergies who need to use medicine if they have a reaction should carry their medicine [epinephrine auto-injector] with them. We should know who has an allergy and what the signs of an allergic reaction are, and we should get an adult to help if someone is having a reaction.” (Ontario Curriculum, 2015).

Nicole K. 

St. Patrick’s Day with a Food Allergy

St. Patrick’s Day is always a fun holiday where people scramble to a1find anything they own that is green, eat pancakes all day, and may indulge in a few too many beers. In order to ensure that you have both a safe and fun day of the Irish here are my top 5 tips to celebrating if you are at-risk for anaphylaxis.

  1. Always carry your auto-injector!

This is a good tip for everyday life but it is especially important to ensure you have your auto-injector on you at all times on a day where you may be in unfamiliar bars or surrounded by new people. For the ladies, it is probably safer to keep your auto-injector on your body as opposed to a bag or purse which could easily get lost or even taken.

  1. Know what you are drinking

People tend to be very generous on St. Patty’s Day and may offer to share their drink or buy a round for everyone. It is important to know all of the ingredients and types of alcohol in the drinks you are consuming. There are many websites from bloggers and articles who have compiled lists of liquors and common allergens they contain. You can check out this blog http://www.nutmums.com/nut-free-alcohol/ and a previous AWA post on Alcohol and Allergies https://adultswithallergies.com/2014/04/16/alcohol-and-allergies/.

  1. Stick with your friends

It is easy to meet new people and stray from the group of friends you started out with on St. Patty’s Day but it is important to ensure that you always have someone nearby who is aware of your allergies. Having a person who has got your back throughout the day can be very helpful in case you drink a little too much or if you ever needed help with a reaction. Someone who knows where your auto-injector is, how to use it, and the steps to take in case of an emergency is key!

  1. Know your limit

As you may or may not know, consuming alcohol limits your inhibitions and increases risk-taking behavior. When it comes to those at-risk for anaphylaxis, risk taking is something that is best to avoid at all costs! Know what your limit is when it comes to alcohol consumption and try to alternate with non-alcoholic drinks throughout the day so that you can still be aware, make good choices, and stay hydrated.

  1. Have fun!

Although it is important to be careful when celebrating on St. Patrick’s Day you should never let your food allergies limit the amount of the fun you have or the experiences you take part in.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Lindsay S.

Explaining My Food Allergies Series: At a Restaurant

Some people find it daunting eating out at restaurants when living with a food allergy. Having had food allergies for as long as I can remember, I have become quite comfortable talking to servers and explaining my situation to them. As a child, my parents took the responsibility of conveying the message of my food allergies. However, once I became older it became important for me to be able to do this myself and to know when a restaurant is safe to eat at, as I would eventually be on my own without my parents at my side all of the time.

When I am deciding what to order at a restaurant, I tend to pick two items. That way if there is an issue with my top choice, the server can look into the second item before coming back. I have the same routine way of telling the servers about my food allergies every time I eat out, which keeps things simple.

I start off by saying that I have a few food allergies to let the kitchen know about and I tell the server my list of food allergies. I have a number of food allergies so I say them slowly so that they can be written down. I always confirm the list with the server. Then I tell them what I am interested in having and ask that they check with the kitchen that it will be safe. If I notice on the menu that there is something that contains one of my allergens that would most likely be cooked on the same grill or food preparation station, I ask about having my food cooked in a separate area. I emphasize that my food allergies are severe and that cross-contamination could cause a severe reaction. There have been situations in which I felt that the server did not understand the severity of my allergies and therefore asked to speak to a manager who was better able to handle the situation.

Overall, I feel that due to the rising prevalence of allergies, it has become much easier to convey the message of explaining my food allergies. Many chain restaurants often have allergy menus now, which outline the common allergensiStock_000068035835_XXXLarge.jpg that can be found in their dishes. This allows you to make a more informed decision about what to eat. The greatest difficulties I have faced have been with language
barriers. Within Canada, I generally do not have many issues, but in those cases, talking to a manager has always made things much easier and more clear. I do not let my allergies stop me from being able to go to restaurants with friends and family. I recognize situations where I might be limited, but know that if I cannot eat at a certain place, there will always be somewhere else I can go to get food.

-Sara S.

 

Attending Conferences with a Food Allergy

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation.
There are ways to attend conferences safely with food allergies

While completing my master’s degree at Western University, I had the privilege of presenting my research at a number of conferences. Through my work with Food Allergy Canada, I have also attended a few conferences, both as a general attendee and as a moderator/facilitator. Living with a peanut/tree nut allergy, I have to prepare for conferences with a little more planning than the classic presentation prep. I find it useful to view the conference agenda ahead of time. This allows me to figure out when food can realistically be consumed.

In most cases, the conference admission will include some sort of lunch or, if you’re lucky, a full dinner. If this is the case, I make a point of contacting the conference organizer to speak about my food allergy and discuss what a safe meal entails. I think that trying to explain the severity of my food allergy through emails is risky because emails can get lost in the ‘spam’ folder, read but not processed, or they can simply be overlooked. For this reason, I think a phone call is always the best option for meal preparations. Here’s a couple examples of recent conferences I attended and what I did:

I recently attended a food allergy conference in Washington, DC, where I was surrounded by teens and parents living with food allergies. There was no food permitted in any of the meeting or conference rooms. This kept the conference very safe for the countless people with food allergies present. In fact, the only food I saw at the venue was sample packs of snacks from a vendor who made a point of asking what your food allergy was before offering any samples. The lunch time slot was extended to just over an hour to allow attendees to leave the venue, find allergen-safe food, and journey back to the venue in time for the afternoon sessions. This is an example of a well-planned, allergy-friendly conference.

Another conference I attended was less allergy-friendly but still very accommodating. It was a conference held in Niagara Falls for the Canadian Association on Gerontology. With over 1000 people in attendance, I knew I would need to plan my meals extra carefully. I contacted the conference organizer and had a special meal made for each of my lunches, which was great! However, when I picked up my lunch, I quickly realized that all of my friends had chocolate bars with nuts in them AND little packs of trail mix! When I realized this, I had to be extra diligent with my hand washing and careful not to eat anything that may have come in contact with the tables, or really anything at the conference. This is an example of a well-planned, but less allergy-friendly conference.

In most cases, it is likely unrealistic to request a complete ban of your allergen at a conference. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask. If you ask and the organizer says no, you’re in no worst condition. At least you tried! In any case, remember to plan your meals ahead of time. If the organizers cannot accommodate your allergy, simply make them aware of your allergy and pack food that you know is safe. Then wash your hands before eating. Lastly, always bring your auto-injector with you to the conference and ensure it is with you at all times. This is important in the case of an emergency.

After thoroughly preparing for all food possibilities at the conference, remember to prepare your slides, dress sharp, and have some fun! Happy conferencing everyone!

Dylan B. 

Introducing Food Allergy Canada

Introducing Food Allergy Canada

All of the writers on the “Adults with Allergies” team are very happy to share the news that Anaphylaxis Canada has rebranded as Food Allergy Canada.  

This blog is only one of many of their resources available and we can assure that their commitment to adults at risk for anaphylaxis has not changed. We look forward to providing you more great articles, advice and tips under their new banner!

Kyle, Aaron & the team at www.adultswithallergies.com

The 2015 Sabrina Shannon Memorial Award – Applications now being accepted

2014-Sabrina-Shannon-Award-Banner

Anaphylaxis Canada is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the sixth annual Sabrina Shannon Memorial Award.

This award is dedicated to Sabrina Shannon, an inspiring teenager who suffered a fatal anaphylactic reaction in 2003. During her life, Sabrina helped to raise awareness about food allergy by creating a 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 Sabrina’s spirit alive by advocating for allergy-aware school environments. In 2005, Sabrina’s Law was passed in Ontario, resulting in landmark legislation that has influenced school anaphylaxis policies across Canada.

Two awards of $1,000 each will be granted to students entering their first year or continuing their studies at a post-secondary institution.

Applications will be evaluated on a submission essay which describes the student’s efforts to raise awareness about severe allergies and anaphylaxis in their schools or communities.

The application form can be downloaded from Anaphylaxis Canada’s youth website http://www.whyriskit.ca. All applications must be submitted by June 19th, 2015.

Read about our 2014 award winners Sydney Harris, and Katherine Li and their accomplishments in raising allergy awareness in their communities.

For more information, please contact Anaphylaxis Canada at 1-866-785-5660 or info@anaphylaxis.ca. Award funded by a grant from TD Securities.

Anaphylaxis Canada

Food Allergies at Weddings

WhyRiskIt? Teen Allergy Blog

a wedding pic

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…

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