Adventures in travel with "special needs"

I am back from yet another conference. I always enjoy conferences, but with all this food stuff this time around (as well as one I went to last week) was more stressful than usual.

I always felt like people who complained about having allergic reactions on planes were sort of over-reacting and being overly nervous. Well, about this time last year I had a reaction on a plane that I never could figure out. A few days ago it happened again - the minute I stepped on the plane my eyes started itching and watering like crazy and I got really congested. I was on that plane for two hours and never complained about it because, again, I didn't know what was causing it. When the plane was landing I suddenly heard two cats about two rows ahead of me meowing. Well, I am HIGHLY allergic to cats, but didn't think I was that allergic to them. I still felt allergic 10 hours later once I reached my destination, and the crazy part is that I had already taken my usual antihistamine before flying. The people I was flying with thought that I should demand to be moved, but unless I am dying I don't like making a big deal of things. Two reactions on planes in less than a year is not so good, and I'm trying to think of ways of solving it without making a big deal about it. Needless to say, I now believe that allergic reactions on planes, even from things happening rows away, are real.

I brought literally all my own food to this conference. I still ended up "eating out" three times - once at an awards banquet (it hadn't said on the schedule that it included food), once at a restaurant buffet (I had thought it would be a regular restaurant, and all my co-workers singed up to go so what was I going to do), and once at Boston Pizza. The buffets always stress me out. The first one had potatoes in the buffet so I felt really uncomfortable eating without checking, so waited around a good 20 minutes while the staff checked the ingredients and everyone else started eating. I ended up having rice, chicken, and salmon. The second awards buffet had all the foods labelled which is SO NICE!! I wish all buffets had that! I ended up having chicken and smoked salmon and some veggies. My co-worker got really concerned because my face got really flushed and itchy. She thought maybe the smoked salmon had butter. I'm not sure if it was a reaction or not - it went away after half an hour or so with no medication. But maybe this will stop her from making continuous comments about how I can, "Just take the bun off and eat the X anyway ..."

At Boston Pizza I had a Santa Fe salad without the tortilla chips (because they are deep fried with potatoes) or the cheese. I had them check the dressing for milk, wheat, or eggs (I learned that the hard way by having "vinegarette" dressing that turned out to have wheat in it about a week and a half ago). It turned out fine, although when I first met the people I was eating with they were like, "I hear you have a bunch of allergy issues ... is this a night to cheat??" *sigh* No, not a night to cheat.

One nice thing is that, having travelled with co-workers, I had the whole epi-pen discussion with them and the whole "I'm allergic to everything" discussion. Some of them finally understand that I will never be eating any of the food ordered for work, at least not in the near future. I also "came out" about diabetes when one of them asked what my pump was. I've gone from working in an office where a few of us had severe food allergies to one where no one has any health issues more severe than environmental allergies, and it makes me feel seriously unhealthy at times.

This trip I brought a dust mite/allergy cover for the bed pillows, and it helped so much! I used to wake up RIDICULOUSLY congested at hotels, and this time around I didn't. Maybe in part because I"m on about four allergy medications ... However, I ended up forgetting to take the cover off the pillow one morning and it got taken away with the pillow by housekeeping. Oops. I have another spare at home, and luckily they are not expensive, but I think my next one I'll mark with a bright red stripe or something (trying to figure out how to do this) so that I noticed it and take it off.

Since I am doing so much travelling, and since I'm now basically packing a "food suitcase" and have to check one of my bags (I usually try to do all carry-on), I'm on the lookout for some good luggage that can stack so that only one thing needs to be dragged. Discovered pretty quickly that it's impossible to drag two suitcases plus use a white cane at the same time. And after thinking I could see and slacking on cane use a week and a half ago - and completely NOT seeing two steps down in front of the hotel and, well, you can guess the results (lucky I didn't break anything in my opinion!), I definitely want to make sure I can use my cane and drag my luggage around at the same time. There are people around to help, but they won't necessarily be around at all times.

In a way, it's weird how things happen. Two years ago I was NOT a traveller. Even travelling within the province made me incredibly nervous. But through work I learned how to travel, including buying some stuff to keep my diabetes supplies organized (after losing a bunch of pump supplies). And as soon as I get the diabetes and vision stuff sorted out and am comfortable travelling with those two things, this allergy stuff comes along. I think if it hadn't happened in that order I would be too scared to travel. I still haven't travelled outside North America. My next big challenge is that I'm going to a week-long computer programming workshop for teachers (YAY, so excited) in the U.S. That will be a whole new adventure as far as allergies are concerned since there are customs restrictions on foods and such. I think for that one I'll have to scout out local stores and buy some of my food once I'm there, and since we're not staying in a hotel the issue of access to a fridge may be an issue.

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Comment by shoshana27 on May 8, 2014 at 8:18am

JEN i admire you for what you do
You are super girl
you can use magic marker to mark your pillows
hugs

Comment by Jen on May 8, 2014 at 8:25am

Yep I thought of marker but wasn't sure if that would wear off and/or mean I would be breathing in chemicals all night. :/

Comment by Jen on May 8, 2014 at 8:33am

I should say with the red stripe it will need to be pretty thick for me to notice it - hence why I'm not sure about marker. I thought about sewing a stripe of fabric down one side or something.

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