Tag Archives: Lindsay S.

Food Allergies at Hockey Games

Being Canadian and growing up in a family that both plays and loves hockey, I have been to my fair share of hockey games throughout my life. Whether it is at a local rink watching my brothers play or watching the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre, I have always enjoyed the classic Canadian sport. At most hockey arenas, food is typically served, which brings an inherent risk for those with allergies, but if you make sure you play it safe you can enjoy a hockey night in Canada live in action.

I can only speak to my NHL game experience here in Toronto so make sure you check out your local arena before attending a game!

  1. There are a lot of options for food

Most arenas will have a wide variety of fast food options for you to choose from. They can range from your classic hot dogs and pizza to poutine and gourmet burgers. There are typically stands that are owned by the arena itself and often common fast food chains will have booths there as well. Therefore, you should have lots to choose from and might have some familiar brands that you know are safe to eat from.

  1. Plan ahead

If you know you won’t have a meal at home prior to attending the game, take a quick look at the website of the arena you are going to. Most of them will have information on their food services and will list what food vendors are there. This can help you plan an allergy-friendly meal in advance.

A bowl of popcorn with a glass of soda at a sports game.

  1. See if you can bring your own food

A simple internet search should give you some helpful information about food allergies at the arena. For example, the Air Canada Centre has a page on their website stating that fans with food allergies are permitted to bring their own food in and warn that they do sell peanuts in the arena.

  1. Be on the look out

Peanuts are not only a very common allergen, they are also commonly found at sporting events. Since most venues will likely not be peanut-free, if you are allergic to peanuts make sure to take a quick scan of the area around you to see if anybody is eating them. You are attending any game at your own risk, but if you are with a group of friends you can ask to switch seats to keep you away from any nuts.

  1. Have fun!

Going to watch the good ol’ hockey game is all about having fun and supporting your home team. Don’t let your food allergies limit you from attending a game!

– Lindsay S.

Flashback: How I Managed my Teenage Years with Food Allergies

Although it seems like many moons ago that I was teenager, it in fact has only been four years. Being a teenager is not only a period of significant growth and changes in your life but is also a crucial time for managing food allergies. It has been shown through various studies that teens are the age group that take the most risks when it comes to their food allergies. Therefore, developing a strong management strategy to carry throughout your teenage years is very important.

I think that the main factor that helped me manage my allergies in my teen years was the fact that I had a good foundation of management from when I was younger. I have always thought that it is crucial for parents to set a good example when a child is young and allow the child to gain independence as quickly as possible when it comes to them self-advocating about their allergies. By having a routine of always having my auto-injector on me, being able to speak to restaurant staff, and telling my friends about my allergies, the new challenges that came with being a teenager were a lot easier to handle.

Young Woman Standing in Sunset Light, Looking at Camera. Hair Fluttering in the Windi. Selective Focus, Bokeh Lights.

I think one of the biggest changes was moving from elementary school, which is often a very controlled typically “nut-free” environment, to high school where those regulations typically are not in place. I had to be aware of my surroundings in the cafeteria and be confident enough to tell those I was eating with about my food allergies if they had a food containing an allergen of mine. This was something I found difficult at first as I did not go into high school knowing many people. However, after a while it became much easier. I also made sure that my friends knew about my allergies as well so that if they noticed someone else with my allergen they spoke up for me too.

When in our teenage years we often start to go out without parental supervision and start attending parties. Always remembering to have my auto-injector on me was really important as I didn’t have one of my parents to remind me or to bring a back-up one for me. I made sure that I had one in a purse, one in my backpack, and an extra in the house so that I was always covered and it made it harder to forget. When attending parties, I was extra careful to make sure I had one on-hand as there was often food around and people would be sharing cups or accidentally take a sip of yours. This also taught me to be very aware of my surroundings when at parties to make sure that my cup was always with me and that I avoided any food that I couldn’t eat.

Overall, my teenage years went quite smoothly socially, academically, and when managing my allergies. It is important to take good habits from childhood forward into this time and keep them in place as you enter into adulthood.

– Lindsay S.

When they just don’t seem to get it! – Dealing with Ignorance About Food Allergies

Having spent my entire life with life-threatening food allergies, I have had a wide variety of experiences and encounters with people regarding my allergies. Sometimes you get people who are very understanding and knowledgeable about the topic – often they have a family member or a friend who also has allergies. However, time and time again you will come across individuals who are simply ignorant to what a food allergy is, which can lead to unpleasant encounters and difficult social situations.

Portrait of a Confused Business Man Shrugging his Shoulders

Here are my top 5 tips to dealing with those who just don’t get it when it comes to food allergies!

  1. Try to see it from their point of view

It is very easy to get frustrated with people who don’t seem to understand your food allergies. In a time where food allergies are becoming increasingly prevalent it can be confusing to meet someone who doesn’t get it when you say you have life-threatening food allergies. Whenever this happens to me, I try to understand what their point of view is. Maybe they have never met someone with an allergy. They could be from another country where food allergies are very uncommon. It can help your understanding and feelings towards the situation if you can see their perspective.

  1. Don’t get upset about it

When it comes to my allergies, I can get quite defensive when people make ignorant comments. Having dealt with this many times growing up and going through school, sometimes I personally find that getting upset over it just isn’t worth ruining my day.

  1. Use it as a teaching opportunity

I always try to turn a negative situation into a positive one. When somebody makes an ignorant comment about my allergies, I try to educate them about what my allergies are and how serious they can be. Often times people simply are uninformed about the situation and if you take the time to explain it to them this can really help to change their perspective and attitude about allergies.

Beautiful mixed race woman expressing freedom on a summer evening outdoors with her arms outstretched

  1. Advocate for yourself

Often times the easiest way out of dealing with someone who is ignorant about food allergies is to just back away and not say anything. If you shy away from the situation it can only make things worse for you in the future and for others with allergies who may encounter the individual. Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself and let people know that your allergies are something to be taken seriously.

  1. Be open to tell your stories

When people are uninformed about food allergies it is usually because they have never known somebody with them or don’t really get what they are. If you are willing to share stories about how you live with allergies, this can often be a really eye opening experience for others and help them gain some understanding. Usually when you start to tell people about your allergies they will have lots of questions like “Have you ever had an allergic reaction? Have you used your auto injector before? What are you allergic to?” By sharing your experiences with them you can share so much information and help them become less ignorant.

– Lindsay S.

Kiwis (not the fruit), Hobbits and Rugby – Travelling to New Zealand with a Food Allergy

Kia Ora (hello in the language of the native Maori people of New Zealand)!

Milford Sound in New Zealand

I recently had the pleasure of travelling to the amazingly beautiful country of New Zealand where I spent 3 weeks driving all around the North and South Island discovering this exotic land.

After 24 hours of travel to get to New Zealand I was not only exhausted but was also starving! I started out my discovery of what the local cuisine was and began navigating my allergies while travelling. Overall, the food in New Zealand is very similar to food in Canada and North America as a whole. I wasn’t sure if they would have any bizarre delicacies or not have food I normally eat at home but I found eating with my allergies to be very easy while there!

Having a common language was probably what made travelling the easiest as I had no issues communicating my allergies with servers or chefs while eating out. Allergies are quite prevalent in New Zealand, so most people are aware of what it means to be allergic to a food.

Oysters on stone plate with ice and lemon

Seafood and shellfish are fairly common items I found on menus when eating out so if you are allergic to any of these items, you will need to be careful. However, there are lots of other options such as chicken, beef, lamb, pork etc. that can help you to avoid eating any fish. For those allergic to kiwis make sure you say kiwi fruit as the term Kiwi is often used to describe a person from New Zealand. I made this mistake a few times when referring to the fruit and was always chuckled at by a local (I’m sure it happens all the time).

One thing I would be careful of is ensuring you always have a good store of auto-injectors on you. There is often a fair distance between towns and cities throughout New Zealand. We spent most of our days driving anywhere from 4-6 hours with most of that spent on the side of a mountain or in rural farm land. Often there is not cell phone service and you can be quite far away from a hospital or a doctor. So it is important that before you leave, you stock up on auto-injectors so that you have enough to last you in case you have a reaction while travelling between places.

Overall I found New Zealand a very easy country to navigate with my allergies. They have some chains of restaurants and fast food places that we have here in Canada so you can almost always find something safe to eat!

– Lindsay S.

Travelling to the Land Down Under with Food Allergies

Kangaroos crossing.

G’Day Mate! Travelling to Australia is an amazing vacation and a beautiful place to visit. I took my first trip to Australia recently and had an amazing time seeing kangaroos, koala bears, beaches, and the outback. Of course for any trip I take, being extra vigilant about my food allergies was something I made sure was a priority.

Since they do speak English in Australia, handling my allergies was a lot easier than it has been when travelling to places where there is a language barrier. As you quickly learn though, Australians have lots of different terms and words that we don’t use in Canada. For example, green peppers are called “capsicum” and cantaloupe is called “rock melon.” To make sure people understand you when you are asking about your allergies, do a quick search online to make sure that they don’t use a different word to describe the food you are allergic to!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from “Australian food” as I didn’t know if their cuisine was substantially different from North American cuisine. Overall, they do eat a lot of similar foods that we eat here. They have some unique local dishes like kangaroo, emu, and camel (but don’t worry there are lots of other meat options for you to choose from!) Aussies also love their beet root and will often put it on burgers and in salads. Being completely surrounded by water, the coastal cities often have lots of fish on the menu as well, some of which are not found back here in Canada. So if you have a fish allergy, make sure you are careful about what you eat. They also have lots of fish and chip shops but it is important you ask about what oil they are frying the fish in as I did come across some places that used peanut oil.

Fruit and Vegetable Markets

Overall the concept of food allergies is quite well understood in Australia so if you tell your server about your allergy they should be able to easily understand and accommodate your dietary restrictions. I did find that food in the country tends to be a little more expensive than back in Canada – although tax is included in the price and they do not tip servers there. Therefore, I ended up buying a lot of food at grocery stores which have a wide variety to choose from at more affordable prices. I also found lots of peanut and nut-free snacks available so it made shopping a bit easier. Allergens are often labelled on any food product making label reading a quicker process!

I found Australia to be a really allergy-friendly place to travel as things are well labelled, no language barriers exist, and food allergies are quite prevalent in the country. If you are ever willing to make the long trek to the land down under, I would highly recommend it and would have few worries about travelling with your allergies!

– Lindsay S.

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. 

Take Me Out to the Ball Game – But Don’t Buy Me Some Peanuts or Cracker Jacks!

 

Toronto, Canada - August 8, 2014: Aerial view of the Rogers Center a few hours before of a Blue Jays match

Going to a baseball game is a really fun summer time activity and is a great way to spend an afternoon with friends or family. Among the cheering crowds and home runs, however, there is often an element of risk for those with food allergies – especially those allergic to nuts. Every baseball game I have been to has many fans chomping on a big bag of peanuts and throwing their shells all over the ground. I have had more than one run-in with this and it can be a scary situation! Although there is a very slim chance of any of the nut proteins becoming aerosolized and you ingesting them causing a reaction, it is still anxiety provoking to be sitting with a pile of peanut shells at your feet. Many people will often avoid going to baseball games for this reason alone but if you are vigilant and careful you can still safely enjoy the game!

Before buying your tickets check to see if there is a special “nut-free” section at the stadium. In Toronto, they have special games throughout the season where they offer a nut-free zone for families to sit in where no nuts are allowed. Look at your local team’s website to see if there is a safer option for you.

Since the nuts can’t always be avoided, you need to be aware of your surroundings. When I first get to my seat I do a quick scan of those sitting beside me as well as the rows behind and in front of me to check for any peanuts. If I do see someone eating them I will work it out with my friends to ensure that I am sitting as far away as possible from the nuts.

Two young boys hoping to catch a fly ball at a Cincinnati Reds baseball game

You should also feel okay letting those around you know about your nut allergy. I have been in the situation where a man sitting two seats down from me beside my friend got a big bag of peanuts in the middle of the game. Before I even noticed my friend was kind enough to let the man know of my food allergies and asked if he could not throw his shells on the ground. He was extremely understanding and kept all of the shells contained.

If you plan on eating at the game, there are lots of options that can be allergen safe. The peanuts are almost always sold in a sealed bag so there is little to no risk of cross contamination. To ensure that you are eating safely though, it is best to eat your food in the concourse area just to make sure you aren’t ingesting any stray nut proteins that may be surrounding you. It is also important to wash your hands with soap and water before eating in case you may have touched surfaces that those eating peanuts have as well.

In the end you shouldn’t be avoiding the baseball game in fear of having a reaction! There are some easy ways to make the experience safe and if you are with friends and family who know about your allergies and you have your auto-injector, you should be just fine. So go on and enjoy the 7th inning stretch, do the wave, and cheer on the home team!

Lindsay S.

Hello new Food Allergy, my old friend

Cropped image of woman comparing products in shop
Double checking ingredient listings for your new (and old) food allergen is very important!

As many people who are at-risk for anaphylaxis may know, food allergies are something that can be both grown into and grown out of. In the best of cases people are able to effectively “grow out” of their food allergies, allowing them to be able to live with fewer dietary restrictions. However, sometimes people can attain new allergies throughout their lifetime causing them to go through the learning process of adapting to and becoming more aware of a new allergen.

I have been lucky enough to grow out of a few food allergies such as egg, shellfish, and seafood. About 8 years ago, when I was 16 years old, I had a mild allergic reaction to a hot dog I ate at a restaurant. I developed hives around my mouth part way through my meal. Knowing that none of my other allergens (peanuts and tree nuts) were in the food I was confused as to why I was reacting this way. I made an appointment with my allergist and explained what had happened. After thinking about it further I could remember times growing up where I would eat meatballs or chicken fingers and complain about the food being spicy because I had a strange feeling in my throat. Looking back, it was probably a mild allergic reaction because right away my allergist knew what I reacted to: soy protein isolate. This is a man-made manipulation of soy that is used as a filler in many reformed and frozen meat products. My allergist had found that many of his young patients with peanut allergies also had an allergy to soy protein isolate. He performed the skin testing and the hive was about two times the size of the one for peanuts!

At that time, I had a lot of difficulties adapting to this new allergy since soy protein isolate was a newer and less well known ingredient in many foods. I found new products popping up all the time that contained it: salad dressings, cake mixes, fruit juices, and sauces. It is coming up in more and more places as it is a cheap way to boost the protein content and help bind products together. This was very challenging for me as I had to look for new words when reading labels on everything I ate. At 16 years old I had a good idea of what foods were safe in regards to my nut allergies but soy protein isolate is so unpredictable that to this day I double check ingredients constantly on new foods because I never know where I will find it!

Growing into an allergy can be quite difficult as it presents new challenges with finding safe foods, eating out, and all the other difficulties one at risk for anaphylaxis finds in life, at a time when you thought you had things under control. Although it can be tough, it has also helped me to become even more careful with the allergies I have had my entire life and make me that much safer when it comes to managing my allergies.

Lindsay S.

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.

Explaining My Food Allergies Series: To a Significant Other

Couple having intimate dinner of summer eveningExplaining your allergies to anyone can be a difficult task, especially when faced with a new person you have started dating. Although it might feel uncomfortable or be hard to do, it is really important that your significant other has a good understanding of your allergies and how to help you stay safe.

When I first start to date someone, I try to bring up my allergies as early as possible in a more low key way than making it into a really serious conversation. I find that an easy way to do this is the first time I go out to eat somewhere, I casually mention that I have food allergies and that there are some restrictions as to where I can eat. By doing this, I do not have to bring my allergies up out of the blue. Another advantage of mentioning them this way is that it can ensure that we will be eating somewhere that I know is safe for me.

Typically, I don’t launch into all of the details of my allergies when I first bring it up. Often times the other person will bring it up when we do go out to eat or when we talk next as it is something they have been curious about. This is when I go through the basics of my allergies: what am I allergic to, where I carry my auto injector, and the fact that my allergies are life threatening and something to be taken seriously. I try really hard not to scare the other person as my allergies aren’t something that should intimidate or scare them. The more confident you are in talking about your allergies the more comfortable your significant other will hopefully feel about them.

At some point a little later on, it is important to ensure your significant other knows where you keep your auto injector and how to use it. People are often really interested in seeing an auto injector up close and want to know how it works so this is a great opportunity to have a teaching moment with him or her.

As you continue on in your relationship more aspects of your food allergies will come up naturally. I’ve found that topics such as safety on dates, with drinking, and travelling have been very commonly brought up. As long as you feel safe as your relationship is progressing there is no need to tell your significant other every last detail about your food allergies and how to manage them on the first date. It will be much less overwhelming and easier for them to remember if they learn over time.

Dating someone with a food allergy can be a difficult task! Especially if your allergens are a main component of your significant other’s diet. It is important to remember that this can be a big adjustment for people and it will take time for them to become knowledgeable about how you manage your allergies. Make sure you are always open to answering questions that they might have and be accepting of mistakes that they might make along the way!

If the person you are dating is right for you they will be accommodating and understanding of your allergies!

Lindsay S.