Tag Archives: Party

Exploring What Not to Do During a Reaction

“Hey guys, can you help me figure something out?”

Four of my friends were sitting at the kitchen table and looked up from the card game to give me quizzical glances before returning their attention to the cards in their hands. Between the drinks, cigars, and fun we were having it was hard to get their attention.

“OK, let me be more clear” I said as I lifted up my t-shirt. This of course got their attention as they wondered what the heck I was going on about. “Do these look like hives on my chest?”

I’d been deliberating this very question over the past 45 minutes or so. I had a huge rash and was concerned as I’d experienced a couple anaphylactic reactions in the past.

The questioning looks from the group became concerned and sober in a flash. Suddenly everyone was deliberating like a group of experts trying to unravel a political controversy.

“Well, your skin is red but I think hives would be more raised.”

“It’s definitely hives, what else could it be?”

“It can’t be hives, we weren’t even eating!”

After a few minutes, and a clear progression of a red rash across my chest, we decided it would be prudent to act, just in case. This moment is where I think we all collectively made our biggest mistake. This is a moment I’d like to draw your attention to, because I’ve been here more than once, and I’ve messed it up more than once as well. In this moment we decided that I was probably having an allergic reaction, but we failed to act in any meaningful way.

In a panic we quickly tried to figure out who was able to drive to a hospital. This was a short conversation:

“Well, I’m drunk and I’m having the reaction, I can’t drive”

“I’m drunk too”

“Me too”


And that was that. Here we decided to take a different tactic and call a nurse hotline, the kind you call to figure out if you should go to a doctor when you have a cough. The nurse seemed shocked and frustrated that I was even speaking with her.

“Take your auto-injector and get in a bloody ambulance! What the heck are you waiting for?” She even patched me through to the emergency 9-1-1 line.

By now we’d wasted close to 15 minutes on top of the 45 minutes I wasted keeping the hives to myself. This is critical time when a life-threatening reaction is upon you. This is the moment when we got the train back on track so to speak.

While one of the guys spoke to the ambulance dispatcher I took a dose from my auto-injector. My legs began to shake dramatically but it was a fair trade as my symptoms began to stabilize a little as well. This is what I should have done an hour before when I first noticed the hives. It’s also what I should have done when my friends correctly identified my hives.

We were staying at a cottage in the Muskoka area in Ontario, so the ambulance took nearly an hour to arrive. Even then the paramedics told us that they would normally have been much longer but random chance had them driving from a different district at exactly the right moment to pull onto a highway and come to us. For those keeping track this means about 2 hours passed between the appearance of my symptoms and the arrival of medical intervention.

In the end I made it to the hospital and lived to tell the story. But to be sure it is luck that allowed this, not my response.

Like many others before me, I wasted so much time deciding whether I was in danger that I, in fact, put myself in much greater danger. An important detail that I have so far left out is that this was my bachelor party! Imagine what my wife said to me when I relayed this story! You can bet it was quite the tongue lashing I received.

The moral of this story is simple: Don’t waste time.

By the time we called an ambulance I’d known about my reaction for over an hour. First, I tried to keep it to myself so that I didn’t ruin the party. Then we collectively tried to convince ourselves that everything would be just fine as it was. Finally, we made the right decision, but only after a tele-scolding from a nurse.

Like me, if you experience an allergic reaction, you are likely to experience denial. But unlike me you now have an opportunity to learn from my mistake before it happens to you. It may feel wrong at the time but the best thing you can do to save a party is come clean and deal with the reaction and ask others for help. It may feel like a bummer but imagine how your friends will feel if you wait until the reaction is much worse.

You can be smarter than I was. Prepare now for that ultimate decision, that way if it happens to you then you can act swiftly. Know the symptoms of a reaction and decide right now how you will act if you notice them.

Trust me, the party is more fun with you alive and well!

– Jason B.


Having a Happy and Safe Holiday with Food Allergies

The holidays are upon us once again! With the holiday season there are inevitably lots of gatherings, parties and celebrations. Whether it is family get togethers or work parties, food certainly plays a big role this season and is a time to be on high alert for those of us with allergies! Here are my top 5 tips to having a happy and safe holiday season with allergies.Full Homemade Thanksgiving Dinner

  1. Remind your family members about your allergies

The holidays tend to be the time of year where family members who you may not have seen for a while will be getting together to celebrate. For those more distant relatives it can be hard for them to remember that you have an allergy – especially if you are allergic to more than one thing. Instead of being frustrated and dealing with an awkward situation where you can’t eat items at your family gathering, don’t be shy to gently remind your family about your allergies. It may feel slightly uncomfortable but people often feel bad when they realize they have brought something you are allergic to so it’s better to let them know in advance!

  1. Watch out for those baked goods

As common allergens are frequently found in baked goods, it is important to be extra careful around these items. The holiday season usually means lots and lots of baked goods – cookies, Christmas pudding, pies – you name it, somebody is baking it! I have found that people often bring things into work or there are trays of baked goods at parties. It is always important to ask about ingredients and watch for cross contamination. You will generally be safest if you avoid the baked goods unless you can guarantee that they are safe!

  1. Prepare in advance for work parties

There are usually lots of fun parties to attend during this time of year. If you have an invite to a work party do your research! Look into where it is being held and if there is food being served. As it can be hard to find out all the details you are doing yourself a favour if you prepare ahead of time by eating before you go. Some parties may just have appetizers and drinks so you could be starving anyways if you haven’t had a good dinner before attending!

  1. Make your own treats

With the limitations most people with allergies have when it comes to baked treats and goodies it can be quite disheartening having no fun holiday baked goods to eat. Get creative in the kitchen and make things yourselves! You can even have some friends over and have a holiday baking party. That way your kitchen is stocked for the season and you can even bring your own treats with you to gatherings and parties so you can ensure your sweet tooth is satisfied and you don’t miss out!

Christmas lights on dark blue background. Decorative garland

  1. Don’t get stressed by the little stuff

With so many get togethers over the holidays, this can sometimes be an added stress for those with food allergies. Don’t let it get to you if you miss out on some desserts or can’t eat everything at your work party. Remember this is a time of year to celebrate and enjoy those you are with – not what ends up in your belly! I always try to put a positive spin on my restrictions by saying that I won’t put on as many pounds this time of year or be the one on New Year’s Day hitting the gym. Of course, I somehow always manage to find a few allergy-safe treats before the holidays are over!

Hope these tips help you all have a very happy holiday season!

– Lindsay S.

Allergies at the Club/Bar: Top 3 Tips

#1-Never Drink on An Empty Stomach
Ensure you eat an allergen friendly meal before heading out the club or bar. You never know if there will be an allergy-safe option to munch on in the bar and if you do plan on drinking, you might not be in the best state of mind to inform wait staff of your food allergy. Also, if you plan on staying at the club until closing time… your options for some grub will be significantly reduced and you may not be able to find a safe option.

#2- Stick to Allergy Safe Drinks
Broken-down-golf cart, Baby Guinness, White Freezie, Bazooka Joe, Cherry Cheesecake; they all sound fun don’t they!? Despite tempting names and specials on shots or specialty drinks, it is always best to stick to drinks that you know. If you feel you are still of sound mind, you can always ask the bartender about the ingredients. Keep in mind to ask about garnishes, and the tumblers used to mix drinks—you don’t want to risk cross-contamination.

Group of happy friends dancing at night party

#3- Check Ingredients; Do Some Research
Allergens can be present in alcohol and it’s important to be educated on current Canadian labelling laws. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency regarding alcoholic beverages:  “…if added allergens, gluten sources and sulphites at level of 10 ppm or more are present, they must to be declared. The new labelling requirements do not apply to standardized beer, ale, stout, porter or malt liquor products. These products will be dealt with once further consultations and discussions can be held by Health Canada.”  Learn more about alcohol labelling.

Therefore, in order for you to check out ingredients of some liquor (like beer for example), you may need to contact companies directly. Don’t assume that because one company makes allergen safe liquor, that all types of that liquor are safe. You should check with each brand as different methods may be used to blend and distill their alcoholic product.

– Nicole K.

Birthdays for Adults with Allergies

Birthday cupcake in front of a chalkboard

Birthdays are often synonymous with fun and excitement. Celebrating, relaxing, and catching-up with old friends are all things that we look forward to when we plan our own birthday parties, or get invited to one by our friends or family members. Food allergies may initially pose some complications to birthday party celebrations, especially if the party takes place over a meal, or at a restaurant.

This is an all too common, and potentially stressful, situation encountered by many adults living with severe food allergies. The initial excitement for the party that you were just invited to is suddenly overshadowed by doubts, and even anxiety, that stem from how to properly manage your food allergies in the given situation. Some of these doubts may come in the form of the following common questions that I ask myself:

  • “Will there be a meal served at the party?”
  • “What restaurant will my friend/cousin/significant other choose for their birthday?”
  • “Should I call the restaurant in advance?”
  • “Should I avoid eating at the party all-together?”
  • “Will I be singled-out if I don’t eat anything? Will I feel awkward?”

This post will attempt to address some of these questions by providing you with some tangible tips that you can use either when planning your own party or if you are invited to a birthday party in the near future.

Scenario 1: Planning your own birthday party

This is the easiest scenario to face since you have complete control over every detail of the party. In this case, you can either:

  • Plan your party around a fun activity (e.g., A karaoke party or informal get-together) that doesn’t involve eating-out at a restaurant.
  • Plan a lunch or dinner party at a “safe” restaurant, which is a restaurant with a strong food allergy policy that you have eaten at before; a restaurant that you generally trust and feel safe eating at.

Reminder: If you do choose to hold your birthday at a restaurant, always call the restaurant in advance of the party day. This is an absolute must, even for restaurants on your “safe list.” Restaurants change their policies and menus all the time, so you should always be extra-cautious and call the restaurant staff in advance. It is also essential that you remind your friends that you have a severe food allergy (name your allergen) and what specific actions they should take in the event that you do have an allergic reaction. Always have your auto-injector with you, especially if you are dining-out. Make sure others know where you keep it.

Beautiful young woman celebrating birthday with friends at nightclub

Scenario 2: You are invited to a birthday party

In this case, you have less control over the details of the party. You can use my steps below as a broad guideline to handling this scenario:

  1. Call the party organizer in advance (your friend, colleague, family member, or significant other that is organizing the party), and confirm the restaurant name and location (note that different restaurant locations may have different food allergy policies, even within the same chain of restaurants).
  2. Call the restaurant well in-advance of the party (as soon as you get the location information) and inquire about their food allergy policy. Ask whether or not they have one, how they have handled food allergies in the past, and whether or not they can accommodate your specific allergies..
  3. Based-on the information you receive from the call, make a personal judgement to determine whether or not you feel comfortable eating at the establishment. Never feel pressured to eat at a restaurant by anyone, no matter what the occasion! Your health is much too important!
  4. If you decide to go ahead and eat-out, make sure you remind the wait staff at the restaurant (and the chef, if possible) that you have a severe food allergy, and that extra precautions should be taken in preparing your meal.
  5. As mentioned before, remind your friends that you have a severe food allergy, and let them know that you are carrying an auto-injector. Show them where you are carrying your auto-injector.

These are the steps that I most often revert to when planning, or when attending, a birthday party. The most important take-away from this post, is that severe allergies should never overshadow the fun and excitement out of birthday parties. By taking the proper precautions, and following some of my advice provided, you can face any birthday party (or special gathering) with confidence and ease.

– Saverio M.

Wine not bring the cheese to the party?

Wine and cheese

Growing up with several food allergies has made me hyper-aware of the various foods around me, from parties to potlucks and beyond. I’m always trying to stress the importance of knowing every single

ingredient right down to the oils used in a dish I might eat, as well as the contents of their kitchen to avoid cross-contamination. This vigilance and awareness of my surroundings has helped me flourish as a host; I love setting up/creating/planning events, but it is always a way for me to be in control of an event where food is present.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been theming my parties and everything surrounding them: from food, to decorations, and even what my guests wear. It can be a real pain for some people who don’t exactly want to participate, but for those who are into the idea of themes it can be really fun.  One of the best idea’s or themes that my group of friends constantly returns to is a “wine and cheese” party.  The following is quick and easy three-step guide with some tips to planning the perfect wine and cheese party that is safe for food allergies and intolerances alike.

Step One: Picking the Wine

Finding the right wine can be tricky. Your best bet is to grab a couple of bottles with different taste pallets and flavours so you have multiple options sure to please anyone. Try finding a few reds ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noirs, and Shiraz; all ranging from dry to sweet.  As well, try finding a few different Whites, like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and a Pinot Grigio for a full rounded taste option. And, if you’re feeling like a mix, try finding different blends of types, or a blush for those who aren’t sure what they like.  Now, many wines have multiple ingredients that may not always be listed on the bottle, and tasting notes may differ from actual ingredients.  When I am unsure of ingredients, my first call to action is to check the website for information, and if that fails, calling the company is always a sure way to find out all the allergen information you need. You might be surprised to know that some wines use priority allergens such as eggs or fish as fining agents.

Step Two: Cheese Please!

I always pick my wines before I get my cheeses for these types of pairing events.

As with any food, read your ingredients, find out where it was manufactured and if there is a chance of cross-contamination. A few things to remember: try to avoid blue cheese or aged cheeses if you or anyone in your party has a mould allergy given that it can cause a reaction. If you’re looking for lactose-free cheese, check out this link to a Hard Cheese list given that hard cheeses are naturally lactose-free (Lactose Free Cheese). If you’re looking for completely dairy-free cheese, a personal favourite of mine is “Chao Cheese” which comes in many forms and flavours sure to satisfy. Check out their selection with this link: Chao Cheese.

Step Three: Label Everything!

First off, as with any potluck or party, make sure you label everything! Ensure your guests know which cheeses are which, and if they have multiple ingredients, make a little card by the food or wine with the ingredients written down. Secondly, make sure you have separate serving tools for everything and encourage people to use them properly so your food doesn’t come into contact with each other. Lastly, if your guests are bringing other foods, such as fruits and crackers, make sure they follow the same guidelines or bring the boxes for ingredient references to ensure everyone feels comfortable.

Planning a party should be fun and exciting! Just because you have a food allergy or intolerance doesn’t ever mean you should be denied experiences or places. As long as the proper precautions are taken and you ensure your guests feel comfortable with the food options available, you’re sure to have an excellent time.

If you’re looking for more theme ideas, food options, etc. check out Pinterest. It is an excellent resource for absolutely everything!

Happy Planning!