Emma Jane's Allergies

I have maintained this page for about ten years. My first allergic reaction was in 1995 to plums. The second one, a few months later, was to apple juice. In more than a decade of being aware of my food intolerances my reactions have been typical for the anaphylactic spectrum and include throwing up, extreme muscle and joint pain rendering me unable to walk or lift my head, migraines, diarrhea, contact and non-contact hives, contact and non-contact swelling (including throat and hands as appropriate). At least one reaction has resulted in partial throat closure during an anaphylatic reaction that happened hours after eating allergens. I now believe that some of the anxiety attacks I experienced as a child were directly related to the foods I was eating. I have a sharp memory of being at camp, eating an apple and then experiencing what I now know was a panic attack. Apart from the apple, I can remember no other logical trigger for the attack.

My reactions are rarely immediate--often taking over eight hours to manifest, and sometimes starting while I'm asleep. In some ways this delayed reaction can make the reaction more dangerous because I can't necessarily identify the allergen while eating and end up eating more of it, which worsens the reaction when it does happen. It can often take me up to a week to completely recover from a single exposure to an ingested allergen. During the recovery period I will suffer from physical reactions including non-contact hives, non-contact eczema (typically resulting in open blisters on my hands, and sometimes on my eyelids), headaches, pain due to joint swelling, and diarrhea. I live most of my life with a low grade headache. You probably won't notice if I'm dealing with my allergies, or am having a "good day", today. If you ask me about my allergies, I will probably downplay their severity.

Allergies are scary and life threatening. They are not something you should try to "sneak past" me. You are not able to evaluate, perceive or understand the full implications of how my body processes food, so you must rely on talking to me about it. If your cooking has triggered an allergic reaction, I will probably be too embarrassed to tell you. Please don't think that my failing to tell you I've spent the night throwing up due to your food is a "win" for having snuck something past me. (The fact that I have to include that statement tells you something about how people have dealt with my allergies in the past.) If you've never cooked for someone with allergies, just tell me! I can help you navigate your kitchen, and I will take a precautionary anti-histamine.

It has been ten years since I've had an anaphylactic reaction that required injected adrenaline (EpiPen) and/or injected anti-histamines. I typically control my reactions with oral anti-histamines and go to the hospital if I think the reaction may become more severe. I have started eating many of the foods that were once on my "no eat" list; however, this is entirely dependent on my health/mood/stress levels as allergies are an immune system response. If my immune system is weak I am more likely to react "inappropriately" to some foods.

When in doubt, ask!

Allergies as of April 20, 2015

The following items I have reacted to (e.g. headache, skin rash). The *s indicate the food has triggered a full anaphylactic reaction which has required medical support.

  • * sunflower seeds / sunflower seed oil
  • * capsicum, bell peppers, paprika and cayenne pepper
  • * soy oil (in some vegetable oils), soy milk, tofu, miso, "protein", "lecithin", mono-diglyceride, MSG, "natural flavors", "emulsifier", okara (okra, however, is fine), tempeh and all soy products. Note: soy is typically included in light chocolate (white / milk). Cocao is fine, "chocolate" often is not.
  • * juniper (typically found in gin; sometimes used in the preparation of wild game)
  • avocados
  • maple syrup (imitation flavor is fine; the irony as a Canadian is not lost on me)
  • almonds

In terms of cooking oils: please do not cook with sunflower, safflower or soy oils. Canola / rapeseed, vegetable, peanut, and olive oil are fine. Please also check bread labels for these oils.

The following are typically okay when cooked, but I often avoid them in case they are not cooked well enough:

  • * plums
  • * hazelnuts
  • * apples / cider / cider vinegar
  • peaches
  • pears
  • cherries
  • apricots
  • walnuts
  • green veggies are fine when steamed (Brussel sprouts are my FAVE veg); however, green peppers (capsicum) are not okay
  • carrots -- rarely a problem with light steaming
  • celery - rarely a problem with light steaming
  • bananas
  • melons (watermelon, cantaloupe, etc)
  • strawberries
  • kiwi

Safe to Eat

If it's not on the previous list, it's fine to eat. This list is to show you that although the previous list is long, the list of things I can eat is even longer! The following foods are "safe" raw or cooked (although some are only presented cooked, such as squash).

  • dairy -- cow, sheep, or goat; all cheese is fine (i.e. no issues with mold)
  • eggs -- chicken, duck, goose (etc?) are all fine
  • meat
  • fish / shellfish
  • peanuts
  • eggplant / aubergine
  • potatoes / parsnip / turnip
  • rice / grains
  • spirits (caution for gin) / wine / beer
  • squash
  • hot peppers and black pepper (but not capsicum)
  • tomatoes
  • citrus fruits
  • grapes / raisins / wine
  • "non-red" spices - e.g. basil, oregano, cumin, mustard, black pepper, white pepper, salt
  • green leafy veg - rocket / arugula, kale, spinach, basil, nasturtium (etc)
  • red root veg - radish, beets
  • rhubarb
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • pineapples
  • bacon and ginger. But not bacon and ginger at the same time. I tried that once.
  • pecans -- if roasted, please confirm the oil
  • cashews -- if roasted, confirm the oil
  • pinenuts -- if roasted, confirm the oil
  • chamomile
  • parsley

I can usually tolerate trace amounts of my allergens if they have been cooked.   I carry a medic alert card in my wallet that I often give to the waiter in restaurants where the chefs are cooking foods from scratch and can accommodate my needs. The rest of the time I take an anti-histamine and make educated guesses before ordering my food.

I am a challenge to cook for and am happy to do it myself if you're feeling unsure or uncomfortable. :) If there is a chance of cross-contamination, please let me know BEFORE I start eating so I can take an additional oral anti-histamine. Ideally I have at least 20 minutes notice so the anti-histamine has time take effect. It's okay if I need to take anti-histamines! I'd rather we be honest with each other than have you try to hide something.

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