Thursday, December 8, 2011

10 Allergy- & Atopy-Friendly Gift Giving Ideas

I'll be honest. The best stuff I've ever received during Christmas or for birthdays has had nothing to do with my allergies. In fact, I can't think of a single present I have ever received that has been allergy-related. I have a received a couple of nice items related to skin care though. But, other than that, while I dub myself "AtopicGirl", that's only part of my life and I don't primarily define myself as an allergic/atopic person.

So, I always told myself I would never make one of these lists. However, there are some absolutely amazing allergy- and atopy-related items out this year that I wouldn't mind seeing beneath the tree. So, you'll have to forgive me.

My list is mostly geared towards adults (A) and teens (T), but some are certainly for the children (C) on your list.

1. MedicAlert bracelets: MedicAlert has totally outdone themselves this year. The understated, army-look silver bands are out. What's in are Swarovski Element bracelets and Roots leather bands. Pearls, crystals, silver links - they've literally got a style to suit everyone. (A,T,C) Range of prices CDN

2. Allergy Apparel skull t-shirts: Allergy Apparel has the coolest and cutest skull t-shirts for kids. If you haven't seen these yet, take a look. My only problem is that they don't have bigger sizes. Great gift for that mischievous little boy or girl on your shopping list. (C only, but wish it were A and T) Range of prices USD

3. OneSpot Allergy Lip Balm: This is an easy and brilliant stocking stuffer. It's an allergy-friendly, petroleum-free, scent-free and irritant-free lipbalm which is more difficult to find than one would think. Great product for any age. (A,T,C) $7.50 CDN

4.Monkey Balm: Another fab stocking stuffer. I'm a big fan of petrochemical-free, natural products for eczema and this is it. (A,T,C) $15.62 CDN

5. Don't Kill the Birthday Girl by Sandra Beasley and Allergic Girl: Adventures in Living Well with Food Allergies by Sloane Miller: As a teen or adult with food allergies, your life starts to include a lot more than just what to eat and not sharing lunches. Dating, parties and a whole host of situations where one's parents aren't around come into play. These are also great resources for the newly-diagnosed allergic adult or the adult with an allergic child on your list. I figured it out firsthand, but there are now some great books by well-known allergy advocates. I think these are key for anyone making their way through life with allergies. (A, T) $17.12 & $18.77 CDN respectively. Both at reduced prices on as of 07-Dec-11

6. Fresh Restaurant cookbooks by Ruth Tal (Fresh at Home, Fresh, reFresh) and Veganomicon: I'll be honest again. I don't actually own any allergy-free cookbooks. My mother tried a couple when I was very young and they were horrible. So, she figured out what would work and as I got older I did, too. So, while things have changed for the better on the allergy-cookbook front, my go to cookbooks are still usually vegan and I use regular cookbooks and substitute accordingly. While the books I've recommended include nuts, there are plenty of recipes which work without the use of them or don't have them at all. (A,T) $17.16 - $23.80 CDN. Reduced prices on as of 07-Dec-11

7. Argan oil: While argan oil abounds, finding a pure source is a little less easy and it's expensive. A regular sized bottle is easily in the $80-$100 CDN range. However, for those with eczema, the price can certainly be worth it and it's something they might not buy for themselves. As with anything skincare related, save this for someone you know very well. (A,T) $98 CDN at Oresta: Organic Confectionery

8. Scotch Naturals nail polish: During my teens and early adult years, I was allergic to nail polish. As the years went by, I started using -free nail polishes - nail polishes that were free of the worst chemicals like formaldehyde and toluene. Recently, even better options have come out. Scotch Naturals is water-based and not only are there 30 amazing colours (I'm in love with Flying Scotsman), but they have a cute kids' line, Hopscotch, with 13 vibrant colours like Red Rover, Red Rover and Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater. (A,T,C) $14.99 USD adults and $11.99 USD children

9. Allergic Living: This falls in the "figuring it out" category. Especially if you have atopy and allergies, pretty much every page has something relevant. Plus, the recipes are always amazing. This is a staple item for anyone with allergies or atopic conditions. (A,T) 1 Year/4 issues $17.69 +tax or 2 Years/8 issues $26.54+tax CDN

10. Epi-Essentials Handbags & Accessory Cases: Epi-Essentials has cute "Grab-and-Go" handbags in cuter colours that can carry your injectors, inhaler, credit cards, keys and more! For people like me who switch between purses, briefcases and totes, they also have accessory cosmetic cases with room for your injectors, inhaler and cosmetics. Great gift for that stylish teen or adult on your list. (A,T) $118 handbag & $68 accessory case USD

Happy Holiday Shopping! Thank goodness mine is done.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Anaphylaxis Law is a Human Right

I won't go into much detail about the impetus for Allergic Living's write-in campaign for anaphylaxis laws in Quebec, since the campaign website goes over the details and it's been discussed in the media - traditional and social. Essentially, a little girl died needlessly. A protocol regarding anaphylaxis and asthma could have very well saved her life.

What baffles me is that the school reacted very similarly to the way my elementary school reacted 25 years ago. In the early days of my new egg allergy, I didn't know a lot about what was going on. No one really did; so, no one explained anything to me. So, being told that I might be able to eat eggs in baked goods...well, I didn't understand the risks of trying it out. The result was that I bought some kind of cake at a school bake sale and took a bite. It boggles my mind to remember it.

My symptoms were different from my first reaction. My tongue, eyes and lips didn't swell that second time (to this day, they don't), but my throat did. So, instead of calling an ambulance, I was told to sit in the principal's office with an ice pack on my eyes, even though I didn't end up needing the latter.

My memory is a bit foggy, since it's been a while, but I know I didn't have an EpiPen or diphenhydramine. I know we had a school nurse, but I don't recall her doing anything of note. My parents were called and I went home a while later at which point I likely took medication.

So, clearly I didn't die. Lucky for me, because my egg allergy became much more severe afterwards.

In Ontario, we now have Sabrina's Law. I think everyone around the world knows this. What they might not be aware of is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I'll be honest, the argument I'm about to make is a bit of a stretch, but I don't think that makes it invalid.

Section 7 states that "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

Section 15, subsection 1 states that "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability."

I'll add the note that, as every school kid knows, Quebec did not sign on to the Constitution or the Charter; however, it's still applicable.

The point is that children with anaphylaxis and asthma have the right to life and the right to not be deprived of it. These children have the equal protection and equal benefit of the law, without discrimination based on physical disability. In my limited opinion (no law degree here), I think this means that these children are currently not afforded the rights and freedoms they were born to in this country. Denying them access to safer environments is denying their fundamental human rights.

When children who use wheelchairs go to school, they get ramps. Parents have pushed to have defibrillators placed in schools because there have been cases where children collapsed due to unforeseen cardiac issues and needed immediate treatment. When children, regardless of province of birth, who have asthma and anaphylaxis go to school, they should know that should something occur, there is a protocol designed to do everything possible to protect their right to live.

Please sign the Allergic Living petition. If you know people who live in Quebec, encourage them to sign it. If you live outside of Quebec or Ontario, please contact your local representative to get things started in your province or territory. On a national level, please contact your M.P. regarding Motion M-230. You can find more information at the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative website.

Setting protocols in schools isn't asking for too much. What is asking for too much is to have to wait for a child to die in each province and territory before regulations are changed. No one wants the next anaphylaxis law named after their child.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Seven Dairy-Free and Delicious Wine-Friendly Holiday Appetizers

It's the holiday season. That means parties and family gatherings. That means hors d'oeuvres. Before I developed my full-fledged dairy allergy at 17, I had a few good years of enjoying cheese. So, while I never paired it with wine sadly, I remember a good thing.

At this time of year especially, I notice a lot of lists about wine and cheese pairings. Alas, it's not something I can take part in. However, that's no reason for me drink and not eat (not that there's anything wrong with that). All this is assuming that you don't have an allergy to sulphites or the allergens which are sometimes used in the making of wine (egg whites, dairy, etc.).

The fact is that there's so much to pair with wine besides cheese, feel sorry for the poor folks who are limiting themselves to one thing.

One note, I'm a girl who experiments in the kitchen. So, these are all very rough guidelines, not recipes. If there's something you want to know more about, let me know and I'll give you further tips.

1. Baguette topped with Daiya mozzarella-flavour vegan cheese and a great antipasto. My current antipasto favourite is Allessia La Bomba. Toast the baguette slightly, then put the baguette with Daiya underneath the broiler until the cheese is melted (watch this carefully!), remove from the oven and add the antipasto. I'll warn you now, La Bomba is addictive and I use it on everything - pasta, sandwiches, burgers, crackers.

2. Olives. You can never ever go wrong with olives. Kalamata, garlic-stuffed, lye-cured...the list of olives you can pair with wine is endless. Watch cross-contamination issues at olive bars. Pre-packaged olives might be a better bet.

3. Tapenade. Keeping with the olive theme, tapenade on baguette or crackers is amazing stuff and goes well with wine. Here's a recipe from Whole Foods: Kalamata Olive Tapenade Crostini

4. Dark chocolate. On the sweeter side, chocolate and wine are always a winning pair. My current favourite is Pacari. However, they are not completely allergen-free. However, I have found them safe on the dairy side of things. As with any new product, please contact them before trying, regardless of your allergy.

5. Hummus and pita. Though this is a simple and easily-made appetizer, I have to admit I buy mine. That said, I go the extra step. I roast garlic in the oven with olive oil and a bit of salt - all wrapped up in tin foil - for 30 minutes. Then, I liberally coat the pita (I use fake pita - Pita Break) with the roasted garlic and a bit of salt. Slice into triangles (eight for a large pita) and broil (again, watch carefully). Served with Saba Supremely Spicy Hummus, this is one of my all-time favourite things. If you slice the pita in half, through the pocket itself, leaving two thinner halves and then cut into triangles, it makes a great pita chip.

6. Veggies. It's simple and it's good. This just depends on what kind of dip you use. Hummus, a dairy-free savoury yogurt dip, a dairy-free cream cheese concoction or anything with Tofutti Sour Supreme. You really can't go wrong with a little experimentation. Well, you can, but you won't.

7. Prosciutto, Serrano ham or Iberian ham (Jamon Serrano or Jamon Iberico). Meat-lovers, this is the appetizer to end all appetizers. Slice the baguette into small round pieces. Don't get a large baguette for this. Think cute, Parisian bicyclist with a grocery bag in a basket with half of a skinny baguette peaking out of it. Brown the pieces - both sides - in a large, non-stick pan with a bit of vegan margarine. It's best to go salt-free, since the ham has enough salt. Once done, rub the surface of the bread with a really great tomato. Don't buy the pale, sickly, monster tomatoes. Get something off the vine - fresh, red and that gives slightly when you push the skin with your thumb. Size doesn't matter here, just taste. Then, put a thin slice of Iberian or Seranno ham on top. If you can't find (or afford) those, proscuitto works, too. Eat and die happy.

Hope this starts off your holiday right! If you have other foods you love to enjoy with wine, please share. Links are great!