Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Valentine’s with an allergy?
Well, I got you!
Valentine’s Day is one of the most romantic days of the year. Maybe you and your long-term partner are planning a weekend getaway to relax and enjoy each other’s company or maybe you and your girlfriends are planning on celebrating ‘single ladies’ style. No matter what your relationship status is, you can’t deny that Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday. I didn’t really start celebrating Valentine’s Day until I started dating my boyfriend. I remember being very nervous the first Valentine’s Day we celebrated together because I had actually no idea what I was going to be able to eat. I was so worried that we would get to the restaurant and then be forced to leave because I wouldn’t be able to eat anything. So my advice? Don’t be like me! Be confident and take initiative! Over the last four years of dating my boyfriend, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks to master Valentine’s Day:
Plan ahead! – Going out for dinner? Think ahead. My boyfriend and I already contacted the manager of the restaurant we are thinking of trying this Valentine’s Day, two weeks in advance. Valentine’s Day itself is a very busy day/night at most restaurants, so don’t contact the restaurant the day of. Contact the restaurant maybe two, three, or even seven days in advance and speak to the manager. The majority of classier restaurants usually also do special “Valentine’s Day” menus and these menus are typically different from their usual menus. Just because you’ve been to a restaurant before does not mean it’s going to be safe for you on Valentine’s Day. The manager will be able to give you the best advice on what is going to be safest for you. Once you get to the restaurant, request to speak to the person you’ve already contacted. I’ve had amazing experiences at The KEG, Baton Rogue, and Copacabana on Valentine’s Day.
Laura Secord – If you’re allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and have never had the opportunity to try Valentine’s Day chocolate in a box because of the enormous amount of nut products in these chocolate filled boxes, Laura Secord has your back. The 100-year-old Canadian chocolate franchise has an assortment of peanut-free and tree nut-free chocolates in both bars and boxes. They even have a special Valentine’s Day nut-free chocolate assortment box. I picked up a box the other day and it was incredibly delicious. Start making hints to your date that you’re craving some delicious Laura Secord nut-free chocolate this Valentine’s Day. Go Canada!
Keep it simple! – There’s honestly no need to go out for dinner to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Keep yourself safe (and save yourself some cash) by inviting your Valentine over to your place this Valentine’s Day. Make an allergen-safe dinner at home together and watch a cool movie. You will not only have a great time, but you and your Valentine will bond by being able to share with him/her your allergen-safe secrets. You (and your wallet) will be grateful that you’re not out on arguably the busiest dining out night of the year.
Don’t make Valentine’s Day revolve around food! – Who said Valentine’s Day had to be associated with food? Celebrate the day with your loved one by doing something or going somewhere that you wouldn’t usually go to; take a trip to Niagara Falls, go skiing, or take out those skates and go to the nearest ice rink. You make your own fun!
The most important piece of advice I can give you is to enroll your loved one. Share with your Valentine your worries and come up with a game plan in advance together. Get asked out on a date and you’re told that the restaurant is a surprise? Immediately take the initiative and share with your date that you have allergies and you’d love to be a part of planning so that you two can find a suitable destination for you. My boyfriend now takes initiative even before I do! It’s not supposed to be a scary or stressful night, so find a way to have fun with it.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
– Giulia C.
My friends and I always try to do something to celebrate the New Year. I feel like it’s just such a fun night to enjoy out with your friends/family. Two years ago, my friends and I planned to go to Niagara Falls for New Year’s. We were so prepared; we booked everything way in advance, purchased our tickets for our New Year’s party, and figured out who was driving. The group I was going with was a very responsible group and they had all known me since elementary school, so they were very familiar with my food allergies. We were all so psyched to go to Niagara!
I’m a pretty frugal person when it comes to money, especially since I was still a student in University, so I assumed that my friends and I were going to eat at fast food restaurants for the majority of the time in Niagara. I actually love fast food restaurants as they are literally EVERYWHERE and I’m very familiar with what I can and can’t eat. On New Year’s eve though, my friends stopped by this lavish Italian restaurant just outside of our hotel. They made reservations for that evening, without even bothering to call me and ask me to come over and check the menu. When they arrived back at our room and told me our plans, I didn’t think much of it. I was more angry at the fact that I would be spending 30+ dollars on a dinner that I really didn’t care to eat. I would’ve much preferred something quick. I didn’t bother to go downstairs and check the place out because I just thought I’d investigate it when we went down there for dinner.
At dinner, the place was very accommodating of my food allergies. I spoke to the manager and he assured me that they were going to do everything they could to prevent any sort of cross-contamination from occurring. To avoid any miscommunication between myself and the staff, I ordered a very simple dish. However, around 3 hours later, I broke out in MASSIVE hives all over my body in the middle of our New Years party. My best friend and I went back to the room while everyone else stayed at the party.
Thankfully, nothing further happened, but the hives were definitely a downer on the evening. I’m not sure if they were from something I ate from the restaurant, but I had a feeling it was. Everything else I ate/drank that evening, I was very familiar with. That was the last time I will ever let my friends choose a restaurant before discussing it with me. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten there if I didn’t feel comfortable. Two years later, I’m no longer friends with any of the people I went to New Years with (besides the one girl I went back to the room with). I learned that you shouldn’t be afraid of speaking your mind and telling your friends what makes you comfortable/uncomfortable because IT’S YOUR HEALTH.
Happy New Year,
I just recently came home from my first solo (without Mom and Dad) all-inclusive vacation to Mexico with my friends. I was super excited, but also anxious because of my food allergies. I was concerned that it would be difficult for me to eat in Mexico as a result of my food allergies.
Whether travelling with your friends or family, preparation can make your trip safe and enjoyable. I cannot stress enough that communication and preparation are key. My trip was absolutely amazing and I feel like it was partly because my family and I prepared so much in advance in regards to my food allergies. These are some of the things I did to prepare for my vacation:
- Before I even booked my vacation, I did some research as to what countries have decent hospitals. In case something was to happen, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t two hours away from a main hospital. I booked Cancun, Mexico because the resort I stayed at was only 15 minutes away from a main hospital.
- One week before leaving, I called both the resort and the airline I was flying with. The airline immediately wrote a note on my file and discussed ways in which they could accommodate me during my flight. When we were boarding at the airport, I made sure that I reminded the airline crew about my food allergy in case there was any miscommunication when I had previously called. I also packed food for my flight. You honestly don’t want to take the risk by eating unknown food.
- I booked an appointment with my allergist that I made sure fell within a month of my departure so I could speak to him about prescriptions I should take along with me. I knew one or two EpiPens® wouldn’t be enough for a trip, so I asked to get prescribed more. I wanted to be prepared with extra EpiPens® in case an accident did happen. My allergist also recommended buying Benadryl® for the trip.
- I knew someone from Mexico, so before my departure, I asked her to write me a letter outlining my food allergies that I could carry around the resort. The letter basically said, in Spanish, that I had life-threatening food allergies, as well as a list carefully outlining each item that I was allergic to. I then made sure to speak to the chef before ordering at any restaurant. I gave him/her the note, and then they told me the accommodations that they would make for me.
To be honest, the translated note was probably the most important thing I could have done for myself on the trip. Every single chef thanked me for bringing them the note because it made it so much clearer to them what was going on and what they had to do to deal with it. I would 10,000% recommend bringing a translated note. The resort was so accommodating; it amazed me. It made such a difference to my trip that they were so great with accommodating my food allergies.
A trip with food allergies can definitely be daunting, but as long as you prepare in advance, you will have the time of your life.
– Giulia C.
Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love to dress up, eat candy, and go out. I feel like it’s the one time of the year where you can let you inner child out and just simply “be” whatever you want. I feel like with allergies, though, Halloween can bring a whole storm of worries and concerns. When I was growing up and I went trick-or-treating, it would take forever to look through every single piece of candy in my bag and audit whether or not the candy was safe for me to eat. At the end of the night, I would have two piles; one pile of candy I could eat, and one pile of candy I couldn’t eat and would give to my neighbour. As an adult though, Halloween is so different. It’s one of the biggest nights of the year to go out. Don’t think that just because you’re not trick-or-treating anymore that you can let your guard down. Follow these tips to ensure a healthy happy Halloween this year:
- Always carry your EpiPen® on you – just in case anything happens, you want to be prepared.
- Only consume beverages and food where you know the ingredients – If you don’t know what’s in the green juice your friends are passing around, don’t drink it. Last Halloween, I went to a bar and ordered a vodka tonic. When I received the drink, it was blue. I told the bartender that he had given me the wrong order, but then he informed me that he had “spiced” up my drink by adding a blue liquor and gin to the vodka to make it more special. I’m allergic to gin. If I had decided to not ask questions and to just drink the beverage that was given to me, I would’ve put myself in a very scary situation.
- Don’t drink too much! I always make sure that I never drink myself to the point of intoxication. When I see my friends after nights that we’ve gone out and tell me that they literally don’t remember the night, it scares me. What if that happened to me and I just happened to ingest an allergen not thinking about the consequences? It’s just not a situation you want to put yourself in.
Halloween is my favorite time of the year, and you can stay safe and still have fun with allergies. Now, I’m off to go figure out my Halloween costume this year and make my plans!
– Giulia C.
A summer baseball game is a huge event in my city (Go Blue Jays!). My friends and I live for the humid weekend games, the ice-cold beers, the popcorn, and just the pure excitement of the game. Another huge tradition at baseball games, though, is chomping down on some peanuts. The average person will definitely indulge on this traditional baseball snack, but for individuals with a peanut allergy, the baseball field can suddenly become a very scary place.
I’m severely allergic to peanuts, and I’ve somehow never experienced people around me eating peanuts during a baseball game until the most recent game I went to. My friends and I had amazing seats. We had just sat down with our beers and popcorn and were waiting for the game to start. When I did a quick turn to see the area around us, I noticed a family a few rows behind us just going to town on a bag of peanuts. They were chomping down on those peanuts like they have never tasted them before, and were throwing the shells EVERYWHERE. I was super thankful I wasn’t closer to them, but I was also a little anxious because they really weren’t that far away from me.
I don’t think a food allergy should stop you from attending a baseball game. You have every right to be there as anyone else! However, there are definitely a few ways that you can decrease your chances of anything happening:
- When buying your tickets, inquire about “nut-free” sections at the stadium. In Toronto, they sometimes provide nut-free zones where no peanut or tree nuts are allowed.
- If you don’t want to sit in the “nut-free” section of the game because you have amazing tickets that you want to take advantage of, don’t fret. Ensure you have your EpiPens® on you and upon sitting, take a quick scan of your surrounding areas to see if anyone is eating your allergen. If they are, engage them in friendly conversation and let them know what’s going on. People can be very accommodating; so don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
- Wash your hands if you plan to eat anything and always read the ingredients!
Going to a baseball game doesn’t have to be scary. There are easy ways to make the situation safer for you. Now go buy some tickets and root for the home team with your friends/family!
– Giulia C.
I feel like every allergic individual is extremely cautious in every food situation as you want to avoid coming into contact with your allergen, but I believe that we need to be just as cautious in non-food related situations. I’m a gym-fanatic and I find myself most cautious and anxious about my food allergies in the gym or when I am doing some type of physical activity. Yes, you’re not typically ingesting any food at the gym, but that doesn’t mean that you are completely safe from having an allergic reaction.
I’ve suffered two severe anaphylactic reactions when I was doing physical activity. The first reaction was while I was running outside; the second was while I was at the gym. Both times I had not ingested food immediately prior to working out.
The allergic reactions I experienced at the gym really opened my eyes. It was the first time where I had an allergic reaction in a situation where I was not ingesting any food, and had not for some time. My allergist once told me that no matter how prepared you are or how cautious you are at avoiding your allergen, accidents can still happen and that’s not your fault. You can’t blame yourself or be fearful of things that are out of your control. Being prepared and taking precautionary measures that ensure you are not putting yourself at-risk when performing any kind of physical activity are the best things you can do to avoid accidental exposure. Think about these tips before working out:
- Do I have my EpiPens® on me?
- If I’m going to be alone, do I have a phone on me?
- Does someone know where I’m going/approximately how long I’m going to be?
- When was the last time I ate?
- Did I accidentally eat something that said the words MAY CONTAIN… today?
If I say no to any of these tips, I simply do not workout and cannot work out until I can say yes to all of them.
Also, whenever I do go to the gym, I make sure I stick to the following rules:
- Wash down every machine before AND after I use it – you honestly don’t know what the person before you touched.
- Take frequent breaks to catch my breath and lower my heart rate – this way you’re able to make sure your body is recovering normally.
- DON’T TOUCH MY FACE
- Wash my hands (or shower if I’m smelly) after my work out!
Your workouts do not have to be affected by allergies, it just means that you need to be a little more cautious and aware when in these situations.
– Giulia C.