What its like living with a series of allergies?

japanese nut allergy card

There’s been a increase in the number of allergy related news stories recently which I’ll be honest I welcome but its also really sad news too.

Allergic woman died after eating burger

Amy May Shead’s family warn ‘allergies can cause life-changing damage’

Pret baguette allergy cases before death

I felt very strongly as someone with multiple allergies of different strengths including the deadly nut/peanut. Its interesting reading Jessica Pan’s piece about what its like living with a severe nut allergy.

I know the word for peanut in Spanish, German, Italian, Greek and Icelandic. When I lived in Beijing for two years, the first sentence I learned to master in Mandarin was, “If I eat peanuts, I will die.” Then, to really get the message across, I would mime death. I’d clutch my throat, roll my eyes back and stick my tongue out. My audience, usually Chinese waiters, would laugh or look bewildered, but it was the most effective way to get the point across. It was blunt, but it had to be. I had a severe peanut allergy and I struggled to convey the gravity of the situation to locals in China, where nut allergies are rare.

I’m pretty much the same but having travelled around a lot. I have to be very clear when I say I’m allergic to nuts, peas, beans, coconut, fish and seafood. It was Japan when I learned to print out my allergies on a piece of paper.

Why paper? Because its something I can give to the wait staff to give to the actual kitchen instead of relying on the wait staff to convey all the allergies I have. One can be easily missed and all hell is unleashed into my body.

At dinner on my first night in Beijing, I told the waiter, “I’m allergic to peanuts. I don’t want peanuts.” He brought over my food and I peered into a dish, which was sprinkled in peanuts. “Peanuts?” I asked, pointing, knowing they were peanuts. He glanced at the dish and said, “Just a little.”

“Just a little” is the difference between alive and dead. Between the best holiday ever and an emergency trip to the hospital.

I’m happy to say this is less and less happening in the European countries I go to, due to the change in the law around the 14 allergens. Although I’m also getting some slightly more intolerant responses too like those in LEAF.

Now to be fair I’ve been told a few times especially in Japan, go away (more or less) but having to sign a wavier just makes my blood boil.

I’ve learned a few survival strategies along the way, though some of them I learned the hard way.

Friends who travel with me know that they must be my designated “tasters”. Most often, this task is left to my poor husband. So many holidays, so many memories, and so many moments of me shouting in his face, “Do you taste peanuts? Do you?!” A curry on a beach in Malaysia, hot pot in Chengdu, a baklava on a balcony in Greece, all with me staring at him intently, praying for the green light.

I have similar starting with the allergy card, ask friends, a touch to the lips and then a nibble. Wait for 3-5mins with water and antihistamines at the ready. I tend to eat between 2-5 depending on how certain I’ve eaten something allergic. I never leave home without antihistamines now.

There will be foods which I just won’t take the risk with and that does include some of the thai curries. If I think it might have something I’m allergic to in it, I will weigh up in my mind how close I am to my home, does the restaurant practice good separation in food preparation, how much is an allergic reaction going to ruin the rest of my day?

Maybe I should just stay home and not travel, but I love Asia and I really, really love Asian food. Instead, I take precautions: I nearly always carry an EpiPen with me. I also have a routine I do when I meet new friends or colleagues: I show them where I keep my EpiPen and I say, “Guys, just not through the heart, OK?”

The one and only time I was sick in Japan due to peanut sauce, I downed about 4 antihistamines drunk a lot of water then jumped in a taxi back. There is no way I want to be sick in a restaurant bathroom again! Especially because I tend to fall a sleep straight afterwards and trust me theres almost no where worst you want to fall a sleep. I assume its the antihistamines taking effect but it helps, just like a full sugar pepsi/coke after I wake up. Maybe its the sugar and the goopiness of the cola which helps line the throat and stomach.

allergy tests bottles

I don’t carry an Epipen due to having high blood pressure and idiots watching too much pulp fiction. (not the heart for goodness sake!). Given at the wrong time and I’m dead full stop. I’ve managed to stay alive by being super cautious and its worked for me.

Just because I don’t have an epipen doesn’t mean its less serious by the way. I’ve seen many people instantly think it cant be that bad if I don’t carry an epipen. No I’ve been very fortunate, cautious and suspicious of everything I eat or drink. Trace amounts don’t have enough of a effect fortunately too.

I sometimes cook with small amounts of Soya sauce but give me Tofu and its game over. Likewise I can eat Tuna chunks out of a can but fresh fish will have my body forcefully getting rid of it in the quickest way possible.

I try my best to avoid peanuts, but they lurk in so many dishes. I never order massaman curry, desserts with praline, anything with mole sauce, trail mix, granola or Thai salads. No to anything that even looks like satay, no to exotic alcoholic spirits. All foreign chocolate must be studied meticulously.

Everything is studied heavily by me and if there is no ingredients, I will likely avoid it. This means street food or stuff made on the fly almost impossible. Everyone talks about the street markets of Osaka in Japan but I found it impossible to eat there.

To be honest, although Japan was very tricky. Rules like avoiding all soup/noodle things helped reduce the contact with allergens. I think I would have a even more difficult time in China or Thailand. The pure thought of having to deal with a barrage of allergens makes me not want to go. Something most people barely think about when flying to places. I would love to be one of those people trying different things but its super dicey and not worth the risk, so I avoid them.

The puking bit is actually fine. It’s the waiting bit that is the worst. It’s looking for hives on your tongue and swelling in your lips and wondering, “Is this the stupid mistake that ends my life?”

Puking is the worst I’ve had for a long long time, aka its been a long time since I ended up in hospital. I’m one of the lucky ones where my allergy doesn’t send me straight to hospital. However this should never be dismissed as those hives on my lips and tongue are nothing compared to the endless scratchiness of my throat. Then the swelling and before long its difficult to breath. This is also when I desperately need my inhaler (not something I carry around all the time) but can’t pull enough air through my throat to breath correctly. At that point I realise its all down hill, its the point when I start to make mistakes due to the lack of oxygen going to my brain.

Its scary but I’ve only had a few times when I was much younger and it does mean slowing down and doing less.

I recently had to learn the Polish for peanut, frantically searching for it on Google Translate after carelessly taking a bite of chocolate in my hotel room last summer, although I already knew it was in the chocolate. It was that same ominous tingle on my tongue and my throat, followed by hot fear racing through my body.

Google translate is my friend, its not perfect and in some languages slight wrong but it gets the point across and thats all I need.

Look, I know allergies are boring. While visiting Koh Samui, I mentioned my peanut allergy so much that the Thai staff at my hotel greeted me every morning with, “Hello, Miss No Peanut!”

Its something most people never have to think or deal with. For example I’m writing this on a train from Bristol to Manchester with a change at Birmingham. On the previous train a woman sat eating cashew nuts, then dropped the bag on the ground (litter bug). Now on my last part a woman sits eating a Kitkat peanut across from me. I lean back in my chair but the smell of peanuts is heavy and I dying for her to finish the bar quickly instead of little bites at the edges.

The smell of death just hovers around and it makes you want to run for cover. I’ve drawn comparisons to when someone is smoking in your face, you might be able to deal with it for a short while then you have to move away.

Its something most people never think about but I do all the time! I’m also consciously watching where she touches on the train, to make sure I don’t touch it too.

Allergies are boring I get that, everytime I have to pull my allergy card out at a new restaurant or place. But its deeply dangerous for me and many allergy suffers to underestimate them.

My hope is stories like mine and Jessica will put a human face to the jokes about throwing peanuts at people. Pret’s labelling is just horrible as I found out that the Korean BBQ soup included fish. But I only found that out when asking for the actual legal allergy menu and not trusting the ingredient menu they include in store.

Sign this allergen declaration before you can eat here

I have had quite a few issues eating out in the past with my allergies. But even I was shocked when visiting Leaf in Manchester for a second degree dinner.

As usual I told the server about my allergies, she stopped me and said the manager needs to take my order separately. I got use to this, so didn’t think much of it. When the manager came, she was carrying a allergy sheet for the food which is what I was expecting. But she also had a form which I needed to sign!

Yes if I wanted to eat at Leaf, I would have to sign the document to free Leaf of any responsibility of any allergic reaction I might have! The manager explained multiple times certain foods are from external suppliers and can’t be guaranteed as nut free; regardless of me saying trace is fine; she wasn’t going let me order unless I signed.

As usual, I actually read the declaration/wavier, which at the time seemed more like a disclaimer. But it was written to resolve Leaf of any responsibility in the unlikely chance I have an allergic reaction, end up in hospital or even die. As I signed it half knowing this can not be enforceable and part of me loving to see this as a court case in the UK. I signed it with a Red pen, which I remember being a issue with contracts.

I ordered the Chorizo in Redwine sauce as a starter which based on the allergy menu contained nuts (It was just Chorizo, Redwine some herbs!). My main was basically steak with veg and little potatoes with no potential nuts. The cheese cake also no nuts or coconut. So I was fine! No allergic reaction.

Next day I spoke to a few people. Some said I was being discriminated against and wondered if they would get people who are physically disabled to sign something just encase? Vivid lounge staff pretty much all laughed about the whole thing, suggesting they might do the same just for me alone.

Regardless I thought it was all ridiculous and I wondered if this was worst or better than being turned away from Home Sweet Home ages ago?  I understand there are people with far worst allergies but signing something to cover the restaurant’s ass is just shocking! It really didn’t fill me with any trust of what is going on back in the kitchen, to be honest. As long as you are told especially by the manager, that should be enough. I get accidents do happen but this feels so wrong and left a horrible taste in my mouth (pun intended!).

I was willing to get up and leave but as everyone had ordered, but its unlikely I’ll be back…

Update on being turned away from home sweet home

I did a little update since being turned away from home sweet home nq last year…

Here’s the update…

Since I wrote the blog last year, a lot has happened. Someone in the social media team picked up on this blog post and got in touch with the owner. The owner (Marie) then got in touch with me and we met one morning in the Home Sweet Home at the great northern. We talked through things and she explained the Northern Quarter kitchen is a lot smaller, the chief may not have felt comfortable with cooking for me; but none of that was an excuse for being turned away. Especially since I was happy to take the risk after everything was explained to me by the manager on the day.

She brought along the current allergy menu (as things change every few months) and I went through it with her and a couple chief’s (I wasn’t quite sure if one of them was from each restaurant or not) to see what I could and couldn’t have. After the exchange, I dashed off to work with a copy of the allergy menu. We then kept in touch over email and we double checked different foods for allergies. I was very confident about what would be fine.

I had always planned to revisit home sweet home after our exchange but with the winter holidays, etc, didn’t quite make it. I also got into the habit of making a big salad from bits from the supermarket on the way to werewolf at Madlab. However this month I arrived back from Liverpool early and decided I’ll finally test Home sweet home again.

This time I was shown to a single table and I asked for the allergy menu. I was asked about my allergies and I produced the allergy card. This was passed on to the manager who took my order and warned me about cross contamination. I said it was fine and she went away. She came back pretty soon afterwards and told me the beans are obviously a problem but what would I like instead? I laughed I would love halloumi instead, she said not a problem and went away.

It took a while, which is fine as I had time on my side. The Wifi was a little bit of a pain as I had to register for it. But generally I sat and drank my cocktail. Then the moment came, chicken fajitas with halloumi. It was very nice and came with dips which I wasn’t sure about, so left them as it was great without them

I paid when I finished and gave quite a big tip for a cocktail and main, but I was impressed not to be turned away again and was happy with the service.

The blog post had certainly helped and I’ll be back at Home Sweet Home more often now. Thanks Marie and the team!

The allergic tales of two sweet homes

On July 20th, I went to Home Sweet Home in the Northern Quarter, it was a hot day and I was going to Madlab to play werewolf. I asked for some food to take away, as I was going across the road to play werewolf with others. Take away was fine but when I showed my allergy sheet, there was the usual shuffle from the server saying they needed to talk to the manager.

I stood there while the manager came over and she looked at my allergy sheet, taking it away to run past the chef. I explained trace was fine and I have eaten there many times including 3 weeks ago with no problems. The chef had advised that I have my chicken non-breaded as the fryer was used for fish, everything was great.

However this time around I was given back my sheet and told by the manager, they could not serve me anything on the menu. I questioned this with total disbelief, surely there is something I can eat on the menu, even a salad? No I was told, our policy has changed and we can serve anything to you. Changed in the last 3 weeks? She told me yes, and asked me to leave.

To be frank I was so upset and pissed off that I thought, I’m leaving and screw Home sweet home! They lost a customer and I only stopped short of tweeting about it because I knew there was a good chance on the July 22nd, I’ll be at the Home Sweet Home in the great northern. I wanted to see how the same company could justify its self, by hiding behind some piece of policy.

July 22nd came, I walked to Home Sweet Home in the great northern, met up with work colleagues. Ordered a cocktail and some food, showing them my allergy sheet. Server calls the manager, manager shows the chef the sheet. This time the manager comes back and recommends a few options with a couple changes. She recommends some kind of chicken salad and I said ok, not expecting much. What came out was incredible (wish I took a picture of it). It was chicken, salad, cheese, peppers and some other bits. It was positioned on the plate nicely and looked/tasted incredible. It was so obvious the chef had taken the creative challenge and jumped at it. It was amazing…

I later explained how I was turned away from Home Sweet Home in the Northern Quarter only 2 days earlier due to a policy change. The manager knew nothing about this policy change and apologised for the northern quarter restaurant. I made sure to give an extra large tip that evening, and told the manager and server to please tell the chef thank you very much for making a plain sounding salad, look and taste so great.

I do understand the stress someone with an allergy can bring to a restaurant but turning them away and refusing to even bother is just shocking, especially since the EU brought in strict guidelines (why are we leaving the EU?). It’s not like I had gone to a fish bar and expected to be served. Home sweet home is (their words) the home of the legendary cheeseburger toastie. I’ve eaten there many times and it just happens that it wasn’t long before too (under a month!)

My allergies are long but not so bad, there are many people far worst than myself. I tend to avoid vegetarian and vegan food because of the nuts, peas and beans. Heck if I can survive Japan with only one allergic reaction, home sweet home I can find something on the menu which I can eat! I’m very tempted to go back to the northern quarter one and see the reaction this time around!

Shame on the northern quarter for such a shocking response… Being turned away from eating is just bad news! Not even trying and almost being pushed out the door is just terrible!

Updated 20/2/2017

Since I wrote this blog last year, a lot has happened. Someone in the social media team picked up on this blog post and got in touch with the owner. The owner (Marie) then got in touch with me and we met one morning in the Home Sweet Home at the great northern. We talked through things and she explained the Northern Quarter kitchen is a lot smaller, the chief may not have felt comfortable with cooking for me; but none of that was an excuse for being turned away. Especially since I was happy to take the risk after everything was explained to me by the manager on the day.

She brought along the current allergy menu (as things change every few months) and I went through it with her and a couple chief’s (I wasn’t quite sure if one of them was from each restaurant or not) to see what I could and couldn’t have. After the exchange, I dashed off to work with a copy of the allergy menu. We then kept in touch over email and we double checked different foods for allergies. I was very confident about what would be fine.

I had always planned to revisit home sweet home after our exchange but with the winter holidays, etc, didn’t quite make it. I also got into the habit of making a big salad from bits from the supermarket on the way to werewolf at Madlab. However this month I arrived back from Liverpool early and decided I’ll finally test Home sweet home again.

This time I was shown to a single table and I asked for the allergy menu. I was asked about my allergies and I produced the allergy card. This was passed on to the manager who took my order and warned me about cross contamination. I said it was fine and she went away. She came back pretty soon afterwards and told me the beans are obviously a problem but what would I like instead? I laughed I would love halloumi instead, she said not a problem and went away.

It took a while, which is fine as I had time on my side. The Wifi was a little bit of a pain as I had to register for it. But generally I sat and drank my cocktail. Then the moment came, chicken fajitas with halloumi. It was very nice and came with dips which I wasn’t sure about, so left them as it was great without them

I paid when I finished and gave quite a big tip for a cocktail and main, but I was impressed not to be turned away again and was happy with the service.

This blog post had certainly helped and I’ll be back at Home Sweet Home more often now.

Thanks Marie and the team!

Happy Birthday fun and woes

life

I think it’s important to find the little things in everyday life that make you happy Paula Cole

Some fun things on my birthday today… Yes I’m one year older but still feel like 23.

The Listening Project
Fi Glover introduces a conversation between friends whose different outlooks on life don’t affect the strength of their relationship at all. Another in the series that proves it’s surprising what you hear when you listen.

It happens that BBC Radio 4 played the Omnibus version of the listening project today on my birthday. The Facebook reaction is even more fun and enjoyable to read, with friends of Kate’s saying I should be taken to Gotland.

Thanks Vivid Manchester but yes coconut will kill me… Not quite the best birthday present for someone allergic to many things. Its the thought which counts.

Don’t worry its not the first time something has been put down in front of me and had it pulled out right in front me for allergy reasons. To be fair its better than the result of being very ill or worst but its hard watching others enjoy what you could have had.

Peanut Allergies are killer, so are baked beans for me

This Video Explains Why Peanut Allergies Are So Dangerous (found via Lifehacker)

Great video and I’m now subscribed to their youtube channel, which has lots of food related tip bits. Love for them to do one about tuna chunks non fish allergy paradox I have.

But watching the video which i’m going to send to anybody who dobhts my allergy or claims i’m just fussy. I dont get that so much now a days, especially since the EU brough in this law, forcing food outlets to take things seriously or get sued!

Which reminded me what I was thinking while reading this thought catalog post, 12 Things People With Nut Allergies Can Relate To.

A hesitation to trust waiters/ waitresses. “Are you sure this doesn’t have nuts in this?” you’ll ask them skeptically (and even after you’ve gotten the green light on your order, you slant your eyes at them). They supply an assuring “I just double- checked with the kitchen and you’re good to go.” You un-tense, and smile, and proceed to inhale your food.

Too many times this has happened in the past, and you are literally on a knifes edge to throw the dice and hope or leave the restaurant. Now in the EU, if anything happens I can clearly state I told them and look what happened! I do feel very happy we

Of course the get out clause is the trace or they can’t count for the cross contamination in the kitchen. But at least its now not down to the waiter/waitress, which is a very good thing! You only have to look at the tragic death what happened in Manchester just as the EU law was coming into effect.

I still remember the story of eating out with friends in the Northern Quarter of Manchester at a recently opened spainish restaurant. I asked the waitress if the desert had nuts and she claimed to have checked. So it came and I believe I put my fork to the desert when the manager grabbed it away from me, saying it does contain nuts. Close shave!

However my lovely thoughtful friends decided to ask whats going to happen to the desert now? Manager says it will go in the bin. Of course they said they would find a home for it. And shared it between them selves, right in front of me, while I sat saying what lovely friends they were, and how I hated them all…

To be fair this is after the EU law as well but lucky the manager stepped in because nuts is certainly the worst of all my allegies. Luckily its been a long time since I’ve had a allergic reaction to nuts but following my last prick test (yes thats what they actually call it) with no less than 14 different pricks in my arm.

CQzSCKnWoAAv0QC

But my reaction to peanut/satay sauce in Tokyo serves as a reminder of what could happen if I get too loose with my allegry. I’m usually ok with trace amounts but as the doctors have said its likely to get worst as I get older. No epi-pen yet, but one day soon…

Till then…

Benadryl is the bomb, and will always be there for you

There is another stellar piece about allergies on thought catalog, which I wanted to share. Some key points…

We are often uncomfortable trying new food.

Please don’t push us to try unfamiliar foods if we are noticeably uncomfortable. We can become especially nervous if the food is from an unknown source, if we aren’t sure of the ingredients, if we are traveling somewhere with much different food than we are accustomed to, or if allergens of concern could be in close proximity. Often times, you’ll find that we don’t have the same curiosity towards new, exotic food as you do.

We know that it sucks.

You know what makes it worse? Constant reminders.

“So, wait, you’re telling me that you’ve NEVER had lobster?! Oh man, that sucks!!!”

I am fully aware that it ‘sucks’. What are you trying to accomplish here? Feelings of guilt? Frustration? FOMO? It’s not as if I can use your remark as inspiration to seek solutions to my lobster-less life. There is no option for self-improvement here. Many of us have come to terms (reluctantly so) with the fact that we will never (ever) be able to eat lobster or oyster or Peanut Butter Cups or [insert allergen here], despite how much it ‘sucks’.

Although to be fair my body treats all my allergies as poisons, especially fish, hummus, smelly nuts such as peanut and the killer baked beans. So I’m actually feeling sorry you all have to eat that stuff. Yes I would like to have sushi but I can have it if I’m very very careful and at a vegan restaurant.

The allergy cards translated to Portuguese worked very well and I had no reaction from memory..

Ian what did you eat in Tokyo?

Dinner in Tokyo

Before I went to Japan, I and others worried what I was going to do about eating out.

Ian what are you going to eat in Japan?

I joke but its a deadly serious question for me. Either I’m going to come back from Japan  having lost a load of weight (i’m going to carry a lot of antihistamines in lei of a epipen) or gained a bunch from eating Burger King and KFC all the time.

Obviously I don’t want to eat western food but a mistake/error could mean the difference between endless puking and a trip to the hospital.

Well as I wrote earlier, I didn’t do so bad. I insured I had a reasonable breakfast of eggs and toast (although the only bread I could find was white bread and finding butter was tricky).

Out of 14 days, I had 1 incident which resulted in me projectile puking my guts up into the toilet where I was staying (we got a taxi back asap!), eating 3 antihistamines pills to try and dampen the unavoidable and falling a sleep pretty much straight afterwards. It wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t the worst I have been luckily.

The problem seems to be the marinade on the Yakitori  (やきとり) skewed meat dinner

2015-04-24 21.16.24

I did show the allergy card but we think the skewed meat I picked and some of the skewers the rest of the party picked got mixed up. Part of the issue for this was because the veggie skewers couldn’t be eaten by me for some reason (can’t remember why?) So I ended up eating more meat than I actually ordered. Things got mixed up too, as you can see its hard to tell which one is which.

I was doing so well up that moment and afterwards I decided found this very useful guide to Japanese food types and then a nice simple way to find them. Mainly Korean BBQ style Yakiniku (焼き肉) and of course Teppanyaki (鉄板焼き). After a while I got use to looking for the Japanese 焼き肉 (Yakiniku) and avoided やきとり (Yakitori).

2015-04-23 22.12.51

Most of the time I had mainly meat plus vegetables, and it was lovely. Especially the very well marbled Wagyu Beef...! Which wasn’t too badly priced at all.

2015-04-23 20.56.30

Classic Yakiniku style, embedded within the table. Its just a matter of switching it on, along the side of the table.

Dinner in Tokyo

This is the other style which seemed very popular. They bring the whole BBQ unit over to your table.

Dinner in Tokyo

This one is similar to the one above but instead of moving the whole unit, they just add white hot coal to the unit.

Dinner in Tokyo

Teppanyaki style dish, lovely tender lunch time dish in Ginza.

Dinner in Tokyo

Another Teppanyaki dinner in Shinjuku.

With all that meat and veg, it was surprising to come back to the UK almost exactly the same weight as I left. Yes I missed all the Sushi and other types of great food in Tokyo but what I had was great and I even tried tounge, but avoided the heart, womb and whale jerky! (seriously!)

I’m actually in Tokyo

2015-04-16 18.24.02

It feels like I have only been in Tokyo for less than a day but gone through so much already.

The flights were great. I left Manchester airport about 2pm on Wednesday then got a flight to Dubai airport on the Airbus A380, which I didn’t know till then, is one heck of a plane! I went economic/standard class but bagged myself the front exit row with nobody sitting besides me. While flying above London, I discovered Free Wifi and in chair usb and mains power! Well as you can imagine, I was set. The Free wifi was free up to 10meg but after that it was 80p for 500meg, which isn’t bad seeing how its “WIFI on a motherfcuking plane!”

2015-04-15 16.48.25

Anyway once we hit Dubai, it was time for a change to a boring/boeing 777. Exit row and wifi again but only USB charge this time. I did grab some food at Dubai which was a good time to try my allergy card. It worked as they changed the menu item from a nutty teriyaki chicken into one without a trace of nuts (replaced them with garlic).

2015-04-16 01.08.39

The flight to Tokyo was ok (bit of crap after the epic A380) and I did manage to get a bit of sleep here and there (more like 2hours over all). Wifi was available but very sketchy and when crossing China, they had to turn it off. By the time we hit Japan I’d lost about a day and half it felt like, as it was Thursday night. I unfortunately got pulled to the side and had my luggage searched by customs. My thoughts was the new luggage was too big for a 2 week holiday. Funny enough they were not interested in my laptop bag at all.

14 day JR Pass, pocket wifi (myfi) and Rebecca all crossed off the list, we headed to Tokyo on the train. Finally found the Airbnb host (swear we were wondering for about 20mins) who did a little tour of the neighbourhood before showing us the place. Still pretty hungry we went out looking but most places seemed to be shut or shutting. In the end we ended up at a store buying bits and Rebecca cooked something veggie and I popped some already cooked plain chicken into it. Pretty much went to bed as I was dying on my feet. I don’t know if I got lucky but I slept right through till midday on Friday, while Rebecca got up at 8am I think? I somehow switched to Tokyo time over the two flights.

2015-04-17 14.02.51

Today when I got up we wondered around the area and decided to check out Shinjuku. Didn’t really get a chance to check out the shops but I did have my first proper off the menu meal in Tokyo. It was ok, more a starter than a main but I guess its kept me going till 9pm ish. No allergic reaction and the allergy card worked. Also finally spent some Yen (I bought stuff with my card in the shop before)

2015-04-17 16.02.17

Now time for dinner… this will be interesting!

Ian what are you going to eat in Japan?

I joke but its a deadly serious question for me. Either I’m going to come back from Japan  having lost a load of weight (i’m going to carry a lot of antihistamines in lei of a epipen) or gained a bunch from eating Burger King and KFC all the time.

Obviously I don’t want to eat western food but a mistake/error could mean the difference between endless puking and a trip to the hospital. Even vegan sushi is a risk due to the language barrier.

Luckily I have spotted things which I can eat, including Korean BBQs! I’m also wondering how Korean food I can find, got to love Kimchi fried rice.

Preparing for allergic troubles in Japan

Allergy pictures

I previously wrote thinking about going to Japan…

I’m expecting at least one allergic reaction and the chaos which will come from not being able to commutate what’s happened.

Because of this, I’m prepared with multiple ways to communicate my multiple allergies.

  1. I have printed allergy cards written in Japanese and English from this site.
  2. I have the same cards on my paper white Kindle
  3. I have images with a red sign indicating this might be a problem for each type of food I’m allergic to

Its not perfect but I also will have a stack of antihistamines and my inhalers to give me time to get somewhere and puke my guts up in private, without my throat closing up. I’m hoping a trip to JR Tōkyō General Hospital will be avoided but if so I got the details.

If things go really wrong, I know to dial 119 and try and shout Tasukete – 助けて  …if I can.

 

How do you say I’m allergic to… in Japanese?

A Sushi Bar in Wakayama, Japan [October 2010]

Chris broke to the news to me about a girl who died eating at Almost Famous while we were eating in TGI Fridays (yes I know I said I wouldn’t go back after dronegate which end with somebody hit in the head but it was one of our regular Friday drinks). I was wondering why TGI Fridays was taking my nut allergy extremely seriously, alot more than last time, Chris then broke the news about the death.

The 18-year-old collapsed on Withy Grove in Manchester city centre on Friday night shortly after eating at the restaurant’s site in the Great Northern Warehouse

Police have launched an investigation after a teenager died from a suspected allergic reaction following a meal at the well-known burger bar Almost Famous.

The 18-year-old woman collapsed on Withy Grove in Manchester city centre on Friday night shortly after eating at the restaurant’s site in the Great Northern Warehouse, on Peter Street, off Deansgate.

Police were called to the scene and the teenager was taken to hospital but she died on Monday.

Its tragic, I have eaten there a few times and although I don’t know what she was allergic to, it certainly focuses my mind around my trip to Tokyo. When I say I am scared of dying, I certainly was not joking!

The inquest was told that she had begun to feel unwell near the Printworks, on Withy Grove, shortly after.

When it became apparent she may have eaten something she was allergic to, she used her inhaler and her epi-pen, which gives a shot of adrenaline to treat severe allergic reactions.

But they had no effect and she collapsed after suffering a cardiac arrest.

An ambulance was called shortly after 8pm and she was taken to the A&E at Manchester Royal Infirmary before being transferred to the intensive care unit. She died on Monday.

The Home Office post mortem revealed the provisional cause of death was hypoxic encephalopathy – damage caused to the brain by oxygen starvation – due to anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction.

The amount of fish and seafood the Japanese eat and consume is no joking matter for somebody allergic to themt. Although I’m a fan of the new EU rules which have come into effect this is a timely reminder its not perfect and of course I won’t be in the EU.

I found some cards which someone has nicely put online.

japanese shellfish allergy

japanese nut allergy card

I still need to find the same for Beans and Peas but theres a lot of useful tips and people trying to solve the same problem.

You shouldn’t have much of a problem in Japan, as long as you can communicate your allergies and you know how the substances you are allergic to are written. Food allergy awareness is about on par with the U.S.

Oh and the answer to the question I asked is…

The word for allergy in Japan is アレルギー – pronouced a-RE-ru-gee, a loan word that’s pretty close to ‘allergy’ if you say it out loud. (It was taken from German (Allergie), as were many medical terms.)

Food allergens warning, EU change will help

homemade-har-gow

I love dimsum, but I always worry whats inside… luckily this is going to change… real soon

Sarah sent me a link to the new Food Standards Agency’s changes. From December 2014, all food businesses will need to provide information about the  allergenic ingredients used in food sold or provided by them.

There are 14 major allergens which need to be declared:

Cereals containing gluten namely wheat (such as spelt and Khorasan wheat), barley, rye and  oats
Crustaceans like prawns, crabs, lobster and crayfish etc.
Eggs
Fish
Peanuts
Soybeans
Milk
Nuts namely almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachio, cashew,
Macadamia or Queensland nut.
Celery
Mustard
Sesame
Sulphur dioxide or sulphites (where added and is >10mg/kg in the finished product. Often found in dried fruit and wine)
Lupin
Molluscs like clams, scallops, squid, mussels, oysters and snails etc.

How great will this be… another nice solution to add to the allergy cards.

Allergy Cards are a good idea…

Ian Forrester's Allergy Card

Via Kid666's blogI found a link to Allergy Card.com. Which is a site where you can create little cards to give to new resturants. Yes its sounds a little over the top, but you know what it would have saved me quite a few nights of terriable projectale vomiting. Like the time when I was in Amsterdam and decided to eat in a Thai Resturant with Kevin Hinde and Joel Chippendale the day before my talk at Xtech 2005. Trust me, if you think its all in mind then you really needed to see the state of the wetroom that night. It was so bad, I dare not call anyone for help till Sarah on the phone in England convinced me otherwise. And that was just Coconut sauce in the meat and prawns in the rice (which I got replaced). No trust me the ride to the hotel was hellish and I thought I wasn't going to make it.

I would have liked to have used the HTML which Allergycard.com creates, but it was so messy I couldn't do it without breaking a load of XHTML rules.

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