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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 5:38 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Posts: 190
Hi! I've created this topic to discuss some of the 'gray' areas around allergy exposures.

There are some of us in the alllergy community who believe that various allergens should be removed from public places, and there are those who believe that the thrust of anaphylaxis awareness should be educating the public regarding foods themselves, cross-contamination, etc., but that trying to remove allergens from the public sphere is too political a hot button. I'm somewhere in the middle, I'll admit. I completely align myself with the main focus of making the public, food-servers, manufacturers, schools and other individuals aware of the importance of anaphylaxis awareness, and of cross-contamination risks.

I also think that the 'gray' areas are important to approach case by case, such as what to do in a store, or in a public arena if the allergic trigger is present and could affect yourself or a family member. It's a tricky issue, and there are many different comfort zones. I'm interested in hearing yours.

Here's one example: About 5 years ago, I rented some movies from a video store, and the clerk was eating Reeses Peanut butter cups with her fingers. I only noticed this, however, after she had placed my videos in the bag, and I'd accepted change from her. Unfortunately, I had already begun to break out in hives, my eyes were red and swollen, and my lips were itchy and tingling. I explained the situation, and the clerk was nice, and apologetic. We did take the videos home, but threw out the bag, and my friend touched the videos, washing her hands after doing so and before sharing the popcorn with me.

I decided to write a careful (i.e., non-ranting -- very important, despite the emotion) letter to the video chain. In it, I mentioned that the clerk had been very polite, but that I thought that there should be no food eaten at the cash, especially since many young children frequented this store, and could put their hands in their mouths. They responded with a written apology and $10 in coupons.

Why did I pursue the situation? My reaction subsided, and the situation was effectively over. I did so because it felt it was important to use this situation as an awareness opportunity for the store chain. Not to stir up a tempest, but to avoid future allergic reactions of even greater severity then my own. It was then up to the video chain to take my comments into consideration, or not to, when educating their clerks.

Just today (and this, admittedly, inspired this topic), I entered a pharmacy, and walked by a store employee about to open a bag of Crackerjack as she was just set to walk past me. I tried to catch her attention, but she was also on a cell phone, and didn't hear me. I did get a nice whiff of peanut as the bag tore open, releasing a stream of air right under my nose. Fortunately, my symptoms were very minor. However, I did go speak to a senior employee, who brushed me off with one of the smuggest sneers I've ever seen, and walked away. When I mentioned that I was having a slight reaction, she was completely dismissive. One of the keys here is that a store is not a public place, so at the very least, even if allergens can't possibly be removed from a given location, which I understand, any report of a customer reacting should be taken seriously.

If I pursued everyone who displayed this level of ignorance, I'd be spending a lot of time writing letters, so I don't. But out of curiosity, what would you do?

Best,

Andrea


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2006 7:26 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 11:17 pm
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Location: Ottawa
I might have spoken to the Pharmacist only because he/she should have a better understanding of allergies and reactions.
Stores are not public places true but they are places of business and usually want your business.
I would hope that they would establish a no eating while working policy. Many companies have such policies, especially when deaing directly with the customer. If they chose not to I would inform them that they have lost a potential customer.
I think it's important to give people the opportunity to address the situation once it has been brought to their attention. It's also important to advise them when they have lost a customer and why.

_________________
Moderator
Daughter: asthma, allergies to egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, most legumes (not soy) & penicillin. Developing hayfever type allergies.
Husband: no allergies
Me: allergies to some tree that flowers in May
Cat: allergic to beef, pork and lamb


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 11:06 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:05 pm
Posts: 528
Location: Burlington, Ontario
I agree with Susan about talking to the pharmacist. The basis for the business is, I would think, the dispensing of medication for people with different conditions, not to sell Crackerjacks, so you will likely have allergic people walking in the pharmacy to buy Epi-pens, anti-histamines and what not. It is not a public place but it is open to the public.

I understand that they need to sell a whole slew of other products to be profitable, but I don't think employees should be eating on the job anyway if they work with the public.

The employee who sneered at you was probably very young, very uneducated or very immature, or possibly all three.

Just like there has been a campaign for second hand smoke, with a very emotional, very clear message from the lady who worked in a restaurant for years, there has to be a campaign of sorts for allergens in enclosed spaces. It is a hard task just to convince airlines to do away with peanuts and nuts, it seems that people think it's their god-given right to eat nuts on a plane trip, like popcorn at the movies. You get on a plane, you eat peanuts. Airlines respect people who want a kosher meal or a diabetic meal, why can't they respect a ban on whatever allergen a person is dealing with? Perhaps we should campaign to have some kind of anti-discrimination law, like handicapped people? If you know in advance that someone is coming to watch a show or is getting on a flight and the company doesn't comply, they pay a fine. Of course this would be hard to do when you're just walking around a store, but theatres, airlines, schools and workplaces should accommodate the allergic person, just like they accommodate handicapped people.

I wonder if a lawyer could help us with this issue? It might take a couple of good lawsuits perhaps to jolt the awareness level up! :lol:

_________________
15 year old - asthmatic, allergic to cats, dogs, horses, waiting to be "officially" diagnosed for anaphylaxis
12 year old - asthmatic, allergic to tree pollen and mold, OAS
Husband - Allergic to amoxycillin
Self - Allergic to housework only


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 12:14 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jul 03, 2006 8:23 pm
Posts: 190
Thanks for your comments, Susan & Nicole!

I probably should have spoken with the pharmacist, but didn't think of it. I was looking for the most senior employee. I ended up speaking with the person with the keys dangling on her keychain, who I assumed was the manager. The woman in question was actually somewhere (I'd guess) in her 50s, and made her feelings about accommodations quite obvious. ;)

This was a pretty typical encounter. The first issue, which is that employees shouldn't be eating when working, is important and sensible, since there are many allergens out there, not just peanut, and this is a store where many people, including those with severe allergies, buy prescriptions. However, until more awareness is out there, this can happen. However, even more important is the response of the Sr. employee when informed that I was reacting in her store.

I'll be writing a letter to the pharmacy itself, and to the chain to see what their response is. Since a very typical response might be that they can't guarantee that all allergens aren't present in their store, I'm going to emphasize the dismissive behaviour of the Sr. employee, as well as the fact that this was a pharmacy, where health is expected to be promoted, not diminished.

Does anyone else here have 'allergy encounter' stories, past or present?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 3:07 pm 
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Joined: Sat Apr 16, 2005 12:09 am
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Andrea_MASG wrote:
Why did I pursue the situation? My reaction subsided, and the situation was effectively over. I did so because it felt it was important to use this situation as an awareness opportunity for the store chain. Not to stir up a tempest, but to avoid future allergic reactions of even greater severity then my own. It was then up to the video chain to take my comments into consideration, or not to, when educating their clerks.

This is pretty much how I feel too Andrea. I find my response to these kinds of situations somewhat of a tricky tight-rope walk. My intent as yours is Andrea, is to help educate, because how can we expect others to be more considerate if they just aren't aware. My experience has typically been for people to be defensive and even offended when I have spoken up in the past. I struggled with trying to convey that I wasn't blaming them for anything - that I just wanted to explain the seriousness of my son's allergy and why the situation wasn't safe for him or others. Maybe others' experiences have been different, but I have found that this message typically gets lost in people's own issues about self-acceptance, being defensive about having done something wrong or that I'm calling into question their intelligence. What I've decided to do in these "grey situations" where there isn't a public policy in place (like at the library, etc.) is to go to the top with a letter or conversation about the issue. Because, really, who am I to tell anyone anything?? If I want to make a change, I typically go to the people who have the power to make change. I find this saves me the energy of having to deal with "disgruntled" people. And yes, some days it does feel like "so here I am....writing yet another letter...." but it's all good. I just pick and choose what I'll respond to and how much effort I put into something, i.e. a two minute email or a major letter. I feel that if I don't make the effort (and my life is affected by allergies) how can I expect others to or for the situation to improve?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 5:34 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:58 pm
Posts: 275
Location: on my pc in cp
talking from the point of view of someone without food allergies that works with the public i like it when my allergic costomers start telling me about their various allergies, because i like to learn about these things. i am only one person, but i do take their advise to heart and want to help in any way i can.

an allergy is not a visible type of condition that i know by looking at person they have a problem. such as a person with a hearing aid i know to make good eye contact and not cover my lips while talking to them. a person who has trouble seeing needs to be told what i have as they may not be able to see it. but an allergic person only has their voice to tell me what their personal problem is! i have learned far more about food allergies from people with allergies coming and buying something from me then from any training i've recieved.

i've said it once and i'll say it again. people with allergies are the nicest people to deal with they have a problem with a practice, a food or what-have-you that they come in conatact with. it is the people who chose not to eat certain food items who are the biggest whiners and get the angriest! educuation is key, and i find that people with food allergies are always willing to educate me and i'm perfectly okay with that!


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 8:54 pm 
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Location: Gatineau, Quebec
I agree with you Andrea, that if you have the time and/or energy, it's worth pursuing these kinds of situations because if no one says anything, the "offenders" (for lack of a better term) will not know that they are doing something that might be putting someone's health or even life at risk. You yourself might be saving another individual from a dangerous situation by speaking up.

Some people will take it the way it's intended, while others will not hear the true message because, as ethansmom said, other factors get in the way. But moving it "up the food chain" is a good idea, because then you are likely talking to people who are more used to looking at the big picture.

I wonder if it would have an effect to also tell people/companies that you will be pleased to share any good outcomes with the members of your online forum/support group? (Maybe best not to threaten them with what you will do with a bad outcome...) :)

In the past I have written letters and emails and mentioned that as the leader of a local support group, I represent over 75 member families in our area. You could mention that you are a member of a national (well, really, with the Internet, international) forum... (and I will start doing that too). That might get their attention with regards to the audience that they are dealing with. You're not just one squeaky wheel -- you represent a whole bunch of squeaky wheels. :lol:

K.

_________________
Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


Last edited by KarenOASG on Sun Jul 09, 2006 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 09, 2006 10:20 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:04 pm
Posts: 2044
Location: Gatineau, Quebec
Just got a good stat from Gwen (the Editor):

We are on track to have 100,000 visits to the forum this year. So there's the potential audience of a post in this forum, if you ever want to cite that in an "educational" letter to a company. :)

K.

_________________
Karen, proud Mom of
- DS1 (12 yrs): allergic to cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, potatoes, some legumes, some fish, pumpkin seeds; OAS
- DS2 (1o yrs): ana. to dairy, eggs, peanuts; asthma


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:50 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:05 pm
Posts: 528
Location: Burlington, Ontario
There's power in numbers!!! :lol:

Or as we say in French:

L'union fait la force!

_________________
15 year old - asthmatic, allergic to cats, dogs, horses, waiting to be "officially" diagnosed for anaphylaxis
12 year old - asthmatic, allergic to tree pollen and mold, OAS
Husband - Allergic to amoxycillin
Self - Allergic to housework only


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:52 am 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
That's a good idea to mention the website when doing advocacy work.

Sometimes I do speak up when I see people eating when dealing with the public. But sometimes I don't. It depends on the situation. I've been speaking up more lately, though.

This problem is really widespread----culprits I've encountered eating on the job include: receptionist at the allergist's office, nurse at the allergist's office, counsellor at the University of Toronto career centre, employee selling tickets at the Canadian Opera Company, grocery store clerk, cashiers in other stores..... the one situation that I think is understandable is at farmer's markets around mealtimes. I don't think the vendors actually get breaks...still, it isn't good from the point of view of hygiene if people eat and then sell food to customers without washing their hands.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 9:09 am 
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Good idea about mentioning the forum in advocacy work! I wonder if people's responses would change if they knew...


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 11:52 am 
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Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2006 11:58 pm
Posts: 275
Location: on my pc in cp
the break thing really drives home a point. if you work in a place where you tend not to get a break you don't really have a choice about eating in front of your costmers, and such, and as i said until recently if i was only handeling money or a drink bottle i never thought to wash my hands, because money is dirty already, and i don't touch the part of the bottle the person drinks from, so by the way i taught to do handwashing i never thought of it... but i certainly do now and it's cause of talking to people and reading info on this board.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 6:41 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2005 11:39 pm
Posts: 1141
Location: saskatchewan, canada
Quote:
This problem is really widespread----culprits I've encountered eating on the job include: receptionist at the allergist's office, nurse at the allergist's office,


Okay, that is REALLY bad!!!

_________________
DD age 9 1/2 -peanuts, nuts,
DD age 7 1/2 - milk, eggs, chicken, peanuts, treenuts, cats, dogs,
DS age 2 1/2
Husband- asthma, eggs, treenuts, fish, shellfish environmental
Self - penicillan, eurithromiacin, mild laytex allergy.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 10, 2006 8:36 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:21 am
Posts: 684
Location: Cobourg, ON
On the March break, we were at the Museum of Civilization in the children's section and a clown was walking around with a fake can of peanuts that opened with a snake flying out. Each time the clown came close to my daughter she hid behind me. I was surprised by the prop used and I wondered if my four year old was afraid of the costume or the can of peanuts. About the third time we ran into the clown, she commented that my daughter didn't like her. I decided that I would do a little education work. I explained that she might be scared because of the can of peanuts because she had a life threatening allergy to peanuts. The clown apologized and it was clear that she had never even thought of the peanut issue. The next time she approached us, she put the can away and smiled and waved to us. I always feel very empowered when I raise awareness and help educate about allergy.

_________________
11 year old daughter -- lives with life-threatening allergies to milk, eggs and peanuts; seasonal allergies (birch, maple, ragweed); pet allergies; asthma; and eczema
9 year old son - no allergies


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 11, 2006 8:51 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 05, 2006 1:05 pm
Posts: 528
Location: Burlington, Ontario
Helen, when we went to Dr. Waserman's office, people were walking around with lattes and such from the coffee shop downstairs.

I mentioned to my hubby that in such a busy office, they should have a sign about not bringing in any food or drinks in because of the risk for people with severe food allergies.

It seems very basic and logical.

_________________
15 year old - asthmatic, allergic to cats, dogs, horses, waiting to be "officially" diagnosed for anaphylaxis
12 year old - asthmatic, allergic to tree pollen and mold, OAS
Husband - Allergic to amoxycillin
Self - Allergic to housework only


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