Actress Julie Bowen keeps us giggling as the helicopter soccer mom Claire Dunphy on “Modern Family.” But there’s a cause close to her heart that is no laughing matter — anaphylaxis. When her own son was just a toddler, Julie had a terrifying experience when “he had a life-threatening allergic reaction to peanut butter.”
Julie opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her three “rowdy” sons — Oliver, 6, and 4-year-old twins John and Gus — and the joys of motherhood. She goes on to talk about her new online children’s e-book, “The Adventures of Ana and Phyl: The Carnival,” that helps raise awareness for anaphylaxis.
Q: Tell us about narrating the new online children’s e-book, “The Adventures of Ana and Phyl: The Carnival.” What is it all about and why did you get involved?
A: “For the past year, I’ve been working with Mylan Specialty to increase awareness of life-threatening allergies and encourage people to be prepared to respond if anaphylaxis occurs.
“Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and is life-threatening. It occurs when someone comes into contact with a food or other trigger to which they are allergic. As a mom to a child with life-threatening allergies, I know it’s important to keep this conversation going both at home and at school, which is why we developed this new e-book, titled, ‘The Adventures of Ana and Phyl Axis: The Carnival.’
“The hope is that parents and teachers will use this e-book to talk about this sometimes scary subject in a non-threatening way so they can show how kids with severe or life-threatening allergies can participate in school and community activities. It’s available for free download at www.anaphylaxis101.com .
“‘The Carnival’ follows brother and sister duo — Ana and Phyl Axis — as they work with parents, teachers and other children to plan an allergy-friendly event at their school. The reader follows them on an adventure to choose the most appropriate foods and supplies to make the event a success. I narrated the book with silly voices and had a lot of fun with it. My kids love it!”
Q: Tell us about your own son’s experiences, and how you became a spokesperson for anaphylaxis.
A: “When my oldest son was a toddler, he had a life-threatening allergic reaction to peanut butter. He had eaten peanut butter once before, but the second time he ate it he experienced anaphylaxis and we found out he is highly allergic to peanuts.
“It was a real wake-up call for me and my family. We really didn’t know a whole lot about anaphylaxis. But, now that we’ve been educated I want to help others learn more too.
“An estimated one in 13 kids in the U.S. has a food allergy, so this is a topic that affects a lot of people. Through the “Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis” campaign, I feel like I’m doing something practical to help people be aware of the signs and symptoms, learn about avoiding triggers, and understand the need for an anaphylaxis action plan.”
Q: What are some of the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis?
A: “I’m not a doctor, but I know common symptoms of anaphylaxis include trouble breathing, chest pain, skin hives or redness of the skin, tightness in the throat, swelling of the lips and/or tongue, nausea, dizziness, a decrease in blood pressure and/or fainting. There’s lots of information on www.anaphylaxis101.com .”
Q: What are your best tips for parents in talking to their kids, making them aware and self-advocates of their anaphylaxis?
A: “It’s important to have an anaphylaxis action plan and to talk about it with your child. The plan should include avoiding allergic triggers, knowing the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, having access to two epinephrine auto-injectors, and being prepared to respond if anaphylaxis occurs.
“Talking about the topic can be empowering for a child. We talk to my son about his life-threatening allergies a lot, and as a result, he’s become his own best advocate. He’s six and tells everyone about his allergy to peanuts and asks if there are nuts in foods before he eats a food he doesn’t recognize.”
Q: How are your boys doing? What are they into these days? What do they do to make you laugh? Do they all get along?
A: “I have three boys, so my house is … rowdy! They are close in age, so they really do like playing with one another, and so far, get along very well. I hope that continues. We just came out of a busy summer with lots of camps and activities so we’re settling in to new routines and a new school year.”
Q: How do you juggle your busy career and your family life?
A: “It’s a constant juggling act, and I’m just like every other mom trying to do the best I can. I have noticed that now that the boys are a little older they notice more when I am gone, so I try to be around as much as possible. But it’s good for them to see I have a job that I love, too. And I’m lucky that my work schedule is very manageable.”
Q: What is it like raising kids in Hollywood? Do the paparazzi drive you crazy?
A: “I try not to really let it affect us too much. The kids could really care less that I am on TV. If I’m not on a cartoon they’re not interested. I’m just Mom.”
Q: What’s up next for you?
A: “I’m really enjoying my work on ‘Modern Family’ and the stage it’s given me to bring new information to other moms. This includes my work to raise awareness of anaphylaxis with the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis campaign as well as my work with Neutrogena next year. So, more of that and just spending as much time with my family as I can!”