The 3 A’s of Eczema & Allergy Parenting

Acceptance
Realise this is Eczema and not just a patch (or many) of dry, flaky skin
and/or these Allergies will change your life

Awareness
Build your knowledge on what it is and what you can do about it

Action
With the right attitude and tools, you can gain control of these conditions

I’ve been there and done it. You can too.

Find out more.

Please note: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, although every effort is made to provide accurate and up-to-date information. Remember, there is no substitute for a full in-person evaluation by a registered health-care provider and your doctor should always be your first stop. I am not a doctor and I don’t claim to be one. I work in conjunction with your doctor, not in place of her. As with anything relating to your child’s health, at the first sign of anything serious, go see your doctor – you are your child’s advocate.

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Summer of Family Love (and Some Itchiness)

After a particularly busy Spring followed by a hectic working holiday back to London where I attended an allergy course at the Royal Society of Medicine, I decided to take the summer off to focus on my family and just breathe.

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Living in Canada with Allergies and Eczema

As Canada celebrates it’s 150th birthday, I’ve been reflecting on life here with my two kids (the one I gave birth to and the one I married), and all the benefits and compromises compared to the many other places I’ve lived in terms of eczema and allergies.

I moved around quite a bit before permanently moving back to Canada a few years ago, with hubby in tow and a bun in the oven.

Canada has a great healthcare system which is quite unique. Technically it is all private healthcare but every resident has health insurance through their province that covers doctors visits and some (but not all) other healthcare costs. This means you still need a referral to see a specialist, like an allergist or dermatologist, but you can expect access to them if you need it.

Our coverage by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, aka OHIP, means I was looked after (also read hounded) by an endocrinologist, diabetes nurse and dietician, while I was pregnant because I was borderline gestational diabetic. My baby was delivered by an obstetrician and looked after by a paediatrician from the start. With her many health concerns, we get to see highly specialised doctors, who are trained in paediatrics as well as their specialty. If my child is sick, there are walk-in children’s clinics run by paediatricians. To me, this is huge.

In the UK, we were primarily looked after by GPs, who need much stronger criteria to write a referral letter to colleagues higher up in the food chain. If we lived in the UK with Baby, I imagine it would be much harder for us to get the level of care we get here on a day-to-day basis. And although some of the world’s latest allergy research is being done at London’s Guys and St Thomas Hospital at the moment, if we were on endless waitlists it would be of little use. Benefits and compromises…

:: If you’re interested in how healthcare systems across the world compare, I’d recommend a fantastic book called The Healing of America which you can get at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.ca.

Prescriptions are not covered, or even subsidized, by government health plans like OHIP. With the price of one Epipen Jr at $150 – and remember they have a shelf-life of one year and you need at least three at all times – medications can be expensive in Canada. Add in topical steroids and special moisturizing creams for eczema and you’ve got a pretty pricey concoction. In the UK, Baby’s medications would most likely be free under the NHS

Specialty allergy ingredients, like gluten-free flour and dairy alternatives, are easier to find in Canada than anywhere else I’ve ever lived – Europe, Asia, Middle East – but often carry a higher premium for the exact same item. However regular ‘good’ foods – fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds – are both plentiful and less expensive here.

There is also a plethora of eczema care products available to the Canadian consumer and although shopping online is easier from the UK, you can find more at Shoppers Drug Mart, including the best European moisturisers, than at Boots.

Canada is ahead of the curve in a lot of aspects – just look at JT our PM – but there are definitely some areas where we need to catch up with other places.

Although most restaurants have disabled toilets and menus in multiple languages, food allergies are not taken seriously enough even though they can cause fatalities. The UK authorities recognised this problem and made their first food allergy related conviction in May 2016. The message was loud and clear – take allergies seriously or go to jail. I’ve travelled to Britain twice since then and somehow knowing that they could end up in jail, makes food servers’ hearing work better.

Here in Canada, my baby has ended up in the hospital more than once after eating something a waitress assured us did not contain the list of allergens we specified. And from the conversations I’ve had, this is common among allergy families. Canada needs a food allergy law that protects people and if the carrot isn’t working, let’s bring out the stick.

Nonetheless, we live in Canada because we choose to do so. Our quality of life – with excellent infrastructure, sunshine nearly every day, and most importantly, family nearby – is phenomenal. The glass of maple syrup is most definitely half full.

 

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Mail Theft: What To Do

I recently had my mailbox broken into and my mail stolen while I was abroad.

Having done lots of research on who to call and what to say, I thought I’d compile a list for anyone else who finds themselves in this unfortunate situation.

Police
File an online crime report. To find the exact link for this, Google “(your local police) + report crime”.

Give as many facts as you can in the limited space on the form. An officer will call you back  to follow up and get more details but that may take a few weeks.

Postal Service
Check with the mail company whether they have held your mail for some reason. If not, file a report. Yes, another one.

Canada Post: 1-866-607-6301
Be warned that the person you speak to may be totally unhelpful and daft (Susan was it?) so if you are getting the feeling after a few minutes on the phone that you’re not getting anywhere, ask to speak to a supervisor.

Because it’s difficult to know what exactly was taken, here are the organisations you need to contact just in case the perpetrator is planning to use your identity to get a loan or something. I’ve included the numbers for Canadian residents but the list of organisations should be useful no matter where you live.

Credit Reporting Agencies
Any debt applications need to go through these companies so by letting them know, you should be able to prevent any suspicious applications. There may be a fee for this (the two below charge $5.65 each for the note which stays on your file for 6 years) but it’s a tiny price to pay for the peace of mind. The systems are automated and take at least 10 minutes each. Prepare to be a bit frazzled by the time you hang up.

Transunion: 1-800-663-9980, option 3

Equifax: 1-800-465-7166, option 2

Financial Institutions
We have five and a half major banks in the country:

  • CIBC
  • BMO
  • Scotiabank
  • TD
  • RBC
  • National Bank (the ‘half’)

List which ones you have any accounts – current or savings accounts, credit cards, lines of credit, mortgages, car loans etc – and call them one by one and explain the situation. In this day and age you would think there is little someone can do with just a bank statement but a close friend of mine had a joint account opened in her name and her correspondence address changed!

Also think of any store cards that send you a paper statement that might have been stolen and inform them of the situation.

And while your on the phone with these places, consider switching to paperless statements.

SIN Number
Unless your Social Insurance Number has been used fraudulently by someone else, you will not be issued with a new one. If you suspect that it has been used, inform the relevant government offices immediately.

Service Canada: 1-800-622-6232

Canada Revenue Agency: 1-800-959-8281

Canadian Anti Fraud Centre 
The government of Canada takes identity fraud seriously, as they should, and have set up the CAFC for this purpose. You can file an online report with the CAFC if you wish or call them at 1-888-495-8501

Good Luck!

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Latex-Free Alternatives

After we discovered my toddler’s life-threatening latex allergy (in a very catastrophic manner…), our once safe, child-proofed, food-allergy-friendly home became a danger zone again.

The problem with latex is that it is a natural material (straight from the rubber tree) that is used in a plethora of products in every imaginable field. And although some people do have contact reactions to natural rubber latex, not many people have anaphylactic reactions from exposure anymore, especially not healthy children. This means that latex is not labelled as clearly as it should be, making EVERYTHING a potential hazard.

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