Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All About Restaurants

When Ella was first diagnosed PA, we didn't go out to eat anywhere for a while. I just couldn't handle the thought of someone else preparing her food, and not being able to read the ingredient lists myself.

But we're getting a little more adventurous, and I've started doing a lot more research. So in case you are in the same boat as us, wondering what's safe and what's not, I'd like to share the fruits of my labour with you.

Remember, this list is just what I've learned so far, as I keep learning every day. But at least it's a starting point if you're new at this whole allergy thing!

Safe Places
Unsafe Places
  • Dairy Queen (peanuts & nuts everywhere!)
  • Tim Hortons (bakery environment: high possibility of cross-contamination)
  • A&W (most burger sauces have "may contain" warning, and they could easily end up on the surfaces where they prepare other foods)
  • Burger King (turns out that many of the foods cooked in the deep fryer "may contain" nuts or peanuts, which makes everything cooked there unsafe)
  • Any bakeries (way too much risk of cross-contamination)
  • Any ice cream places (hardly any ice cream is safe)
"Sit Down" Restaurants
  • Red Robin (no allergen info, but we've talked to them and they're good)
  • Boston Pizza (no allergen info, but we've talked to them and they're good)
Tips for Eating Out
  • I always wipe Ella's hands & face, then the table & chair, with a baby wipe as soon as we sit down
  • Of course, we always always have her emergency kit
  • If I haven't been able to read a full ingredient list online beforehand, I have an in-depth conversation with the waitress, who usually checks with the kitchen staff as well
  • We always stay away from desserts, even if they appear peanut-free, because they are prepared near other desserts which probably have nuts/peanuts in them
  • My biggest tip: do your research!

I hope this has helped! Unfortunately, most of the research I've done has been for fast-food places, but that has more to do with the fact that we're dining out with two toddlers, rather than the peanut allergy.

I just wish more restaurants would publish their allergen information online. It's so much easier than talking to the staff, and I feel much more comfortable if I can read it myself. I have started emailing restaurants to request this info, but it will take a lot more people doing the same thing if we want them to change.

If you know of any other "safe" places, leave a comment!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another Trip to the ER

So, we got to go to the ER again the other day. This time in an ambulance. Ella thought it was all very exciting. Here's what happened...

We were at a friend's place in New Westminster when Ella started coughing and wheezing. I knew it wasn't an allergy attack because she didn't show any skin symptoms (hives, redness, swelling), which almost always come at the beginning of an allergy attack. Nope, it was her asthma again. But this time we weren't at home, so we didn't have her puffer.

I watched her for a couple of minutes, because I know that she can usually get over the wheezing on her own within half an hour, even without her puffer. But the wheezing kept getting worse. And worse. So I decided to call 911, just to be on the safe side. I didn't want it to get to the point where she couldn't breathe at all.

The fire truck arrived, and then the ambulance, and she was still wheezing (although not as bad), so they decided that she should go to the hospital. Ella was very excited about this, because it meant a ride in the ambulance. The whole way there she kept asking what everything was, and where we were going, and on and on and on. (So by this time, I knew she was fine.)

But we got there and the doctor checked her over and then we left. No big deal. But I did learn a valuable lesson...never leave home without her puffer!

My emergency kit keeps getting bigger and bigger (actually, it doesn't all fit in my little pencil case anymore, so I need to get a new bag). Just in case you're wondering, it now contains:
  • EpiPen
  • Emergency Plan
  • Benedryl & spoon
  • Puffer & chamber & mask

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Safe Snacks at Starbucks!

I love Starbucks. I love their coffee beans (I have three different types machines at home just for making coffee), I love their espresso drinks (caramel latte is my favourite), I love the atmosphere in their stores, and up until recently I loved their baked goods.

Then came Ella's peanut allergy, and the days of going out on a mommy-daughter date to Starbucks and sharing a banana loaf or ginger molasses cookie went out the window.

Until now!

Starbucks has recently started selling Lucy's cookies. They are free of wheat, gluten, dairy milk, butter, eggs, casein, peanuts and tree nuts. Which, I admit, made me a little skeptical at first, but we tried them anyway. And they are AMAZING. So yummy! And it was less than $2 for a bag of 4 cookies, which is totally reasonable.

So, thank you , Starbucks! Because now I can once again go out for coffee with the kids in tow, and there's something for them to eat and keep them busy while I get 5 minutes of peace.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Celebrities With Peanut Allergies

I was curious to see if there were any famous people with peanut allergies, so I decided to Google it. Turns out there are...
  • Joshua Jackson (OK, he's allergic to tree nuts, not peanuts, but close enough)
  • Serena Williams
  • Ray Romano
  • Alex Kapranos (from Franz Ferdinand)
  • Kelis
  • Robert Kennedy Jr's son, Conor
  • Tom Poti (NHL player)
  • Clay Aiken (tree nuts, not peanuts)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dr. Oz Talks About Anaphylaxis

I must admit, I've never actually watched The Dr. Oz Show. But my mom mentioned the other day that he had done a segment on anaphylaxis, so I thought I should check it out. Here's the video:
Overall, I thought it was pretty good. I love that he's creating awareness and teaching people what an anaphylactic reaction looks like, and what to do about it.

However, I also had a couple of issues with it.

First, he made it look like the only symptoms of a reaction are the skin symptoms (hives, redness, swelling), the mouth symptoms (tingling), and the lung symptoms (wheezing, coughing, hoarseness). He didn't even mention the gastrointestinal symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, pain) or the cardiovascular symptoms (weak pulse, paleness, lethargy, unconsciousness). And he said that the breathing problems were the most serious, but the rapid drop in blood pressure is also a major factor in whether it's going to kill you.

Also, I don't think he should have had her hold the EpiPen like a pen. I know you don't need to apply a whole lot of pressure to get the needle to deploy (you really don't need to stab the person), but holding it like a pen doesn't give you much control over the device. It's much better to hold it in your fist, like so:

Anyway, creating public awareness for anaphylaxis is awesome. Good job, Dr. Oz.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Baked Goods!

Do you know how hard it is to find baked good that are peanut-free? Near impossible. In fact, most of the time I don't even bother walking through the bakery section, because it just depresses me. But I got a tip (from one of the great moms who was at my anaphylaxis group meeting) that Superstore had some. So, naturally, I drove out to Superstore the first chance I got.

And she was right! It was wonderful. I almost didn't know what to pick, but this is what I got:

And check it out...peanut-free!

I have to give props to Superstore. They have the largest selection of peanut-free stuff that I have seen so far. Even their "no name" candy (like jelly beans and jujubes) is peanut-free. And baked goods!

I love cookies...