Julie Bowen has always been a risk taker. During her high school days at St. George’s School in Middletown, RI, students dared one another to sneak down to the beach in the snow. Years later, she chose to keep running after tearing her labrum in her hip socket at mile 20 of a marathon training run. But the “Modern Family” star is not taking any risks when it comes to her son Oliver’s allergies. She is teaming up with the “Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis” campaign, helping school communities to better understand and prepare for potential consequences of life-threatening allergies.
Anaphylaxis is a rapid and severe allergic reaction to a particular trigger, such as a food or a bee sting. For Oliver, it was both. “He did have an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts and a bee sting all at once,” Bowen says. “I realized how easily I could have made a mistake, not knowing what his allergies were or what his triggers were,” she says. “The ‘what if?’ keeps me up at night. That’s why I’m involved with Anaphylaxis 101.”
In spite of her precautions with Oliver’s diet, Bowen notes there have been close calls. “We were out as a family at a beautiful hotel with a buffet,” she says. Although a basket of muffins was labeled “nut-free,” Bowen’s internal mom-voice told her to take a bite first. “That nut-free muffin was loaded with walnuts,” she says. “It could have been a very bad day for all of us. We would have had to use the epinephrine injector. We would have had to go to the ER, because by the way, when you do the epinephrine injector, you still go to the hospital. And that’s another reason you need to have two! Because guess what? The hospital might be really far away.”
All of this foresight and preparation helps Bowen and her family to relax. “I have three really active boys. One of them happens to have food allergies. Because we have a plan, because we know the signs and symptoms, because we are aware, we live a totally normal life,” she says.
Part of the plan is teaching kids to read labels. Kids can also follow “The Adventures of Ana and Phyl Axis” and learn how to avoid allergens at anaphylaxis101.com. The narrator of the cleverly adorable free ebook is Bowen herself.
Three tips for dealing with Anaphylaxis
Know what to expect. Some allergies can be life-threatening if they aren’t dealt with quickly and properly. Get a list of common allergic triggers and learn how to treat them at anaphylaxis101.com.
Educate your kids. Teaching them to read food labels and knowing what ingredients to avoid promotes self-care.
Tell school administrators. If your child has special food needs, make sure their teacher and other school workers know. Twenty-four percent of anaphylactic reactions happened to children whose school workers did not know they had allergies.