"Modern Family's" Julie Bowen: My Son's Health Crisis - and What You Need to Know

Julie Bowen.

Julie Bowen just took home her second Emmy for her hilarious portrayal of Claire Dunphy in Modern Family. But she couldn’t be more serious about spreading the message to parents about childhood allergies.

She learned the hard way three years ago that children can have life-threatening reactions to foods, medicines and bee stings – even if they’ve been exposed to the culprit before. At age two, her oldest son, Oliver Phillips, developed anaphylaxis after both being stung by a bee and eating a bit of peanut butter.

“We had no reason to suspect we might have a problem. He had had peanuts before, and he had always been fine,” the star tells HealthDay (as reported by Health magazine). “But then we found out one day that no, he’s not.”

Her husband, Scott Phillips, saw Oliver’s face swelling rapidly after eating the peanut butter and “was terrified,” Julie explains. “He knew it was bad.” He got Oliver to the hospital immediately for an injection of epinephrine.

Fortunately, Oliver is fine. But the experience has inspired Julie to educate other parents about anaphylaxis. She just became a spokesperson for a nationwide awareness campaign sponsored by Mylan, the manufacturer of the Epi-Pen – a portable life-saving injectable device that Julie and her family carry everywhere in case Oliver has another reaction.

Julie wants parents to be aware that allergic reactions can happen to anyone; according to the Centers for Disease Control, about a quarter of all cases of anaphylaxis in school happen to children with no history of allergic reactions. More than 9,000 children annually are hospitalized for severe food allergies.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling of the face, tongue or throat, hives, a tightening of the throat, chest pain, nausea, dizziness or fainting. But be aware that in some cases, the reaction is smaller (like itching or tingling) and gets worse with subsequent exposures to the food or substance.

“We want parents and teachers to know the signs, so that if you see them coughing, scratching at their throat some or that they’ve got some rash, that you go ahead and look into it further,” she says.

If you suspect that your child is having an allergic reaction – even a small one – don’t take chances. Call 911 and get medical attention immediately. And if your child is diagnosed with a food allergy (common culprits are tree nuts, peanuts, milk and shellfish), follow your doctor’s instructions on learning how to avoid exposure at home, at school and when dining out.

The message also needs to be spread to teachers, school employees, daycare workers and other adults who supervise children. “We, as parents, can’t always be with our children all day, every day,” says Julie, who also has toddler twin boys. “So we want the people around them to be educated.”

[Photo: via PacificCoastNews]

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