Category Archives: Allergies and Anxiety

Top 10 Tips for Trying a New Food with a Food Allergy

  1. Talk to your allergist

This is a really important step, especially if you are trying a food that you were previously allergic to! Ask your allergist for their own tips and recommendations and ensure that it is safe for you to be trying the food. They can provide information such as how much to try, how to prepare it, etc.

  1. Make sure your auto-injector is nearby

When trying new food, you never know what might happen so it is important to have your auto-injector with you (even though you should have it on you at all times!)

  1. Have a buddy with you

Just in case something was to happen, you should make sure that somebody you know and who knows about your food allergies (and how to deal with a reaction) is with you when you try your new food.

Two beautiful young woman sitting at cafe drinking coffee and looking at mobile phone

  1. Eat at the allergist’s office

When trying a food you were previously allergic to, ask your allergist if you can try it in their office so they are nearby in case you have a reaction. Often they will have no problem with you doing this to make you feel more comfortable.

  1. Double check the ingredients

When trying something new it is very important for you to know exactly what it is you are eating! Make sure to read the label over several times or if you are at a restaurant be very clear with the staff about your allergens and cross-contamination.

  1. Try it more than once

This can be especially important for allergens that you have grown out of. Talk to your allergist about subsequent exposure and the affect it can have on your immune system.

  1. Cook it at home

If you are trying a new food that you can cook yourself, it is probably best to try it this way the first time. That way you can control the environment and kitchen it is being cooked in and know there will be no cross-contamination.

young couple preparing early morning eggs breakfast on stove in home kitchen

  1. Talk to others

To get an idea of what it is like to try new foods talk to other people with food allergies to see what they have tried and how they did it! They could provide some helpful tips or foods they have grown to love.

  1. Get creative

Often those who are at-risk for anaphylaxis have very limited diets but there are so many amazing types of cuisine out there! Try something totally new that is out of your comfort zone – just remember to do it safely!

  1. Don’t be afraid!

Trying new foods can produce a lot of anxiety in someone who is at-risk for anaphylaxis. If you have followed all the steps to ensure your safety, you have a friend nearby and you have your auto-injector ready, there is no need to be afraid.  Read our recent post on help dealing with anxiety.

Lindsay S. 

Advertisements

Three Tips on Dealing with Food Allergy Anxiety

“You can’t always control what goes on outside. But you can always control what goes on inside.”

– Wayne Dyer

Anxiety is normal – everyone experiences it to some level. When you have food allergies, you may experience more anxiety that the average person. But the key is learning to manage that anxiety.

Having life-threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish/seafood, wheat, barley, and buckwheat, anxiety has been a feeling I have gotten accustomed to over the years. However, I have also learned how to manage this anxiety by using the following three tips:

  1. Be prepared.

BE PREPARED, message on business note paper, computer and coffee on table

– If you are going to a restaurant or a friend/family member’s house, tell them about your food allergies beforehand.
– Make sure you always have your auto-injector just in case you need to use it.
– If you can bring your own food to make it easier – do so. For instance, when I go on vacation, I often take dry brown rice pasta and rice flour bread to put my mind at ease, as well as make the kitchen staff’s job simpler.

  1. Communicate and don’t “feel bad.”

– Stress the importance of avoiding these allergens in the meal, even at the restaurant or friend/family member’s house.
– Use words and allergy cards, if possible. Using both ensures that all of your food allergies are communicated accurately and completely.
– I used to “feel bad” about communicating my allergies when eating out/at others’ homes. Sometimes I still do – BUT, it is important to remember that it is better to be safe. Both you and the other party will greatly appreciate that.

3. Relax.

– Breathe in and out slowly through your nose – this may sound simple, but my dentist taught me this one, and I’ve used it whenever I feel anxiety. It always helps.
– Distract yourself from the anxiety. If you are with others, talk with them, or watch the television if there is one nearby. Telling those you are with about your anxiety can also help, as they will try to help you manage it.
– Think rationally – if you are prepared and communicate, you should be fine.
– BE POSITIVE!

Although you cannot control everything, controlling as much of the situation both internally and externally as possible, will help you manage anxiety. The feeling of anxiety when eating out does not fully go away for me, which I’ve heard is quite normal. However, by managing my anxiety, I can effectively decrease my anxiety to a level where it no longer negatively affects me.

– Shivangi S.

Wine-ing about my Unusual Allergies – Lessons Learned from an Anaphylactic Reaction

Camping tent in the nice yellow dandelion field with mountains on background

My name is Fraser and I am a 26-year-old medical student. Last spring some friends and I planned to go camping in Gravenhurst, Ontario. While my friend Darryl and I were organizing our tents and sleeping bags, his mother offered us each a glass of wine. Our friend Pozz was picking us up so since we weren’t driving, we each indulged in a glass of wine.

I have life-threatening allergies to a long list of unusual allergens. I am allergic to all raw fruits, all raw vegetables, peanuts, tree nuts, raw salmon, and scallops. I grew into these allergies when I was about 18 or 19. I have had 10 anaphylactic reactions and each time, I have had to use my EpiPen®. I went to the hospital each time and on four occasions I needed another injection of epinephrine at the hospital. Thankfully, I have not stopped breathing during any of these reactions.

Darryl’s father handed us a small glass of white wine and we began pretending we were wine aficionados. I have enjoyed wine in the past, having a glass here and there. We swirled the wine around, spoke in British accents about the fruitful bouquet and the sparkling colours, pretending we knew the subtle differences between French and Italian wines. But, when I had a sip I could feel something wasn’t right. My throat was rapidly swelling up, I felt nauseous, and I began to feel dizzy. I had mistakenly left my EpiPen® in my car, so I ran out into the driveway, grabbed it, and administered it myself. Darryl came to the front door, saw what was happening, called for his father to dial 911, and came to help me. Within minutes, we had to administer another EpiPen® because the first had not yet provided effect. This was the first reaction that caused so much swelling in my throat that I was unable to breathe. The second EpiPen® took effect quickly. I was only unable to breathe for a few seconds. Soon, firemen and paramedics flooded the house and I was taken to the hospital.

I began breathing shortly after the second EpiPen® was administered, and my breathing stabilized in the ambulance. By the time I arrived to the hospital my symptoms were beginning to gradually recede. I was set up in a bed in the emergency department and was assessed by medical staff. My friend Darryl had accompanied me in the ambulance and my friend Pozz was on his way to meet us at the hospital. It was there that I began to feel something much different.

I felt guilty. I was going to be in the emergency department for a few hours to receive other medications and to ensure that I didn’t have a ‘bounce-back’ or “biphasic” allergic reaction. This is another reaction that can sometimes occur a few hours after the epinephrine wears off. By having to wait to make sure my symptoms were gone, I had delayed our camping trip. We were going to have to leave later in the evening, it was going to be dark by the time we arrived, we were going to have to set up our island camp site in the dark, my friends had to pay for parking at the hospital, my mother was called and she had to come down to the emergency department to see me, and I was taking up a valuable bed in the hospital. These were all thoughts going through my head. I don’t like being the centre of attention and having an anaphylactic reaction in the suburbs north of Toronto had brought several neighbours onto their porches to watch the commotion of firetrucks rushing with lights and sirens. I felt guilty that Darryl had to use his EpiPen® because mine hadn’t taken effect. I just felt guilty.

I spent four hours in the emergency room, and on the bright side, felt well enough to continue on the camping trip, and had a great weekend in Gravenhurst.

I think it’s very important for me to understand that having food allergies isn’t my fault. I don’t have food allergies because of poor lifestyle choices or because I didn’t study in school. I had enjoyed wine many times in the past and had no reason to believe that it would cause a life-threatening allergic reaction. Feeling guilty might cause people to shy away from help when they think they might be having an anaphylactic reaction. While studying medicine I was chatting with an emergency room physician who has a life-threatening allergy to walnuts. He had a reaction at a social dinner and instead of signalling for help, he ran down to the washroom. Thankfully, someone found him, administered his EpiPen®, and averted what could have been a terrible allergic reaction. I am not weak or defective because I have food allergies and this is important for me to realize. I am not bound by my food allergies and after this scary reaction, I did not let my food allergies define me. They are just one of the aspects of my life that make me unique. For readers who feel guilty about your food allergies and your reactions, I want to assure you that this is a totally normal way to feel. You might feel like a hassle when you and a partner are making a special dinner and they have to remove several ingredients from the meal because of your food allergies. Or, you may not be able to accompany your friends to a restaurant or pub where peanut shells cover the floors. It is normal to feel this way. But, overcoming these feelings is important, because if you don’t, you will experience much more distress than you need.

Thank you for letting me share.

– Fraser K.

Overcoming My Guilt After an Allergic Reaction

Concept of accusation guilty shy person girl. Sad embarrassed upset woman in glasses looking down many fingers pointing at her isolated grey wall background. Human face expression emotion feeling

I think it is common to feel guilt during or after an allergic reaction. I have had allergic reactions that have interrupted special occasions, family BBQ’s, and holidays. My worst anaphylactic reaction to date actually occurred on Christmas morning! I felt a little bad about ‘ruining’ a special moment, but of course if it was up to me, I definitely would have opted out of an allergic reaction altogether.

Additionally, I’ve felt guilty just about having a reaction. My mind automatically enters the ‘should’ve, could’ve’, would’ve mode. It’s important to reflect on each situation individually to see if there are any areas where you could change your management strategy to be more successful. Living life often involves making mistakes, which is important because it is how we learn. Even if a mistake is made (e.g. assuming ingredients were safe) hopefully you won’t repeat that behavior in the future. Of course, keep in mind that allergic reactions can also just happen on a fluke—even if you are very vigilant. Remember that allergic reactions do happen, and that always being prepared is what is most important. I like to think of this quote when I begin to feel guilty about having had a reaction:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.”
-Reinhold Niebuhr

Nicole K.

Feeling Guilt over an Allergic Reaction

Young shy woman hiding your face-girl covering her face

Having a food allergy and living safely with one requires a lot of special accommodations. Often times, it is hard not to feel bad for others or guilty when your allergy has an impact on their life.

When I was in high school I went on a date to a Greek restaurant with my boyfriend at the time. I love Greek food so I was really excited for our meal. During our appetizers I was a few bites in and knew something didn’t feel right. I wasn’t having any full blown symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction but I could tell that I was having some mild symptoms. To be safe I took an antihistamine and stopped eating the food we were given. As the meal went on I was afraid to eat anymore food in case it would make my symptoms worse. My boyfriend kept asking why I wasn’t eating anything. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to ruin the dinner by telling him about my symptoms so I just lied and said that I wasn’t hungry. I was trying to take the anti histamine without him noticing as I didn’t want to make a big deal about it or have him panic and tell other people which would have made it a huge scene. I could just picture it in my head, telling a staff person, calling the paramedics, using my auto injector – all things I just did not want to go through!

After we arrived home, I was noticeably drowsy from the medication I had taken so I told him what had happened. He told me that there was nothing to feel bad about if I was having any sort of reaction and that I shouldn’t feel guilty or think that I shouldn’t tell anyone. After that scenario happened I have learned that there is no need to feel any guilt or shame when having an allergic reaction. It is so important for your safety to tell others what is happening in case the situation were to escalate and you needed help. People are more understanding than you may think and when your life is at-risk there is no need to feel bad about being an imposition. Others want to help you and make sure you are okay!

Lindsay S.

We’re going to need a bigger bracelet!

Closeup portrait nervous stressed young woman girl in glasses student biting fingernails looking anxiously craving something isolated on grey wall background. Human emotion face expression feeling

My foot was tapping the floor faster than the scarlet speedster, and my arms were crossed so tightly across my chest I could hardly breathe; but I barely noticed. Even the nervous glances my mother was giving me went unaddressed as we patiently waited in the doctor’s office.  This was my first food allergy test since I had a severe allergic reaction three days previously to perch, a type of fish. It was a reaction that came out of left field and required two doses of epinephrine, and a 24-hour hospital stay. Since my reaction was from a food that had never been identified as one of my allergens, I was too terrified to eat anything but mashed potatoes. I was paralyzed in fear of what else might cause me to react randomly, so I refrained from eating even foods I knew to be safe.

So there I sat, stomach growling in hunger, arms red and itchy from testing, and yet I barely felt a thing because my mind was too busy racing with scary scenarios. Time felt like it was at a stand still between the testing and results, when finally my doctor stepped into the room. He started with the basics; for my known allergies (peanuts and tree-nuts), the levels remained the same. He then asked me to recount what exactly happened three days previous.

I sat up a little straighter, tightened my arms around my chest and tried my best to remember:

I never liked the smell of perch, it was “gross” in my opinion so when I was told it was for dinner I was disappointed, and the rest was blurry. I reluctantly ate a small piece and immediately felt the symptoms of an allergic reaction. My father administered an auto-injector and shortly after I was taken in an ambulance where they gave me another shot and 24 hours later I left the hospital. The whole event was a blur of strong emotions and even though I should look at it as a learning event, I would rather forget it altogether.

I leaned back in my chair, close to tears and after a long pause and a lot of writing, my doctor looked up from his notes. He handed me a paper with a list of fresh water fish, and proceeded to tell me my levels on each, and simplified his explanation by saying I was at-risk for anaphylaxis to most of them.  After a long silence the first words out of my mouth were something along the lines of: “this not fitting on my medical alert bracelet.” My mother and I went through the motions after the appointment, both of us defeated by this news. After years of coming to terms with my peanut and tree nut allergies and getting a handle and level of comfort we were just thrown a curve ball late in the game. I wanted to cover my head and forget the whole ordeal; I jumped between wishing I never ate the fish and stayed blatantly oblivious to these new allergens and being thankful that the reaction happened in my home around people who knew what to do.

It took me a long time to come to terms with trying to eat new foods. Over time, I’ve come to terms with these new allergens thanks to the information my doctor gave me on that day. At the time, I wasn’t appreciative of the information but now, I think of it as a blessing.

I never truly respected and understood the importance of the semantics from allergen testing until I was thrown a fork in the road with these new allergens. Moving forward with allergy testing instead of paying more attention to my itchy arms, I listen more to my doctor and have him explain more in-depth regarding new allergens and what my levels mean.  Allergy testing has been and will always be important, and no matter what emotional events may surround your visit or why you’re there, its always better to be informed and prepared than ignorant to something new.

– Arianne.

Bringing Food to Restaurants

iPF0wUKWerylVnh1NbafX1ZFlWrcOQVK_gxZOf3uLAM

One of the realities of living with severe allergies is the limited exposure to many restaurants. Although you can make plans to eat-out by speaking to the appropriate restaurant staff, most restaurants cannot completely guarantee an allergen-free meal. If you are faced with an important event that cannot be missed, or if you are travelling abroad, bringing your own food to a restaurant may be a safer alternative. I personally love to travel and, in some cases, have had to bring my own food to restaurants. Below, I’ll briefly outline my experiences (positive and negative) in doing this.

When I was younger, I always felt awkward or “out of place” when bringing food to restaurants. In some cases, restaurants will not even allow you to bring your own food. I found this to be the case in Europe. I remember going on a guided tour of Budapest with my parents. I knew I had to bring my own food because explaining my allergy would be too difficult given the language barrier. When my parents and I arrived at the restaurant, we were immediately told that I was not allowed to bring “outside food” into the restaurant (which left me feeling awkward and embarrassed). I think my key learning from that experience was flexibility. Although these situations can be difficult, you have to find ways to make it work in a given situation. You can try going to another restaurant, or find a public space where you can feel comfortable eating your own meal.

Although I’ve had some negative experiences, I’ve also had many positive experiences at restaurants. Most restaurants in the United States and Canada understand the implications of food allergies. If they cannot provide a solution, most will try to accommodate you in the best way possible. That being said, more expensive or “prestigious” restaurants may have the “no outside food” policy in place. However, you should typically have no trouble at family restaurants or more casual buffets. In any case, it would be wise to call in advance to make sure that the restaurant that you choose allows outside food.

Further, you need to treat each restaurant excursion on a case-by-case basis. If you have to bring your own food because there is no other alternative, then bring it. Remember, your health and well-being are your first priorities! Never put yourself in a dangerous situation for the sake of convenience.

Saverio M.