Julie Bowen: My Son Almost Died From An Allergic Reaction

It’s every mother’s worst nightmare – and it happened to actress Julie Bowen.

The 42-year-old Modern Family mama recently opened up to the Los Angeles Times about one of her scariest experiences as a parent – when her 5-year-old son Oliver suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction as a toddler.

According to his mother, Oliver – then just shy of 2 years old – was eating peanut butter when he was stung by a bee.

Suddenly, “his entire face swelled up, his eye swelled shut and his lips became giant,” the  actress recalls. “We’re not sure what the trigger was, but he went into anaphylactic shock [and] I immediately panicked.”

Julie and her husband, real estate investor and software developer Scott Phillips rushed their first born to the emergency room where he was treated with epinephrine. Although he made a full recovery,  the incident still haunts Julie, who has since become an activist in educating the public about kids’ allergies.

“It was so scary,” she recalls. “I don’t want other families to go through that…I want other parents to know what to look for.”

“Parents need to get familiar with the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, to be vigilant and aware and know the triggers,” she explains, adding that Oliver and his twin brothers, John and Gustav, 3, have also been taught what to do in the event of a severe allergic reaction. “Kids are surprisingly able to understand the issue and be part of the solution.[Oliver is] young, but he’s very aware of it and doesn’t think it makes him weird or strange, because it doesn’t.”

“There’s this wave of kids who have food allergies,” she stresses. “Its a big deal; it’s a reality.”

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  1. It’s indeed very scary and parents need to be hyper aware. My only problem are when schools ban peanut butter or peanut products because of one or two students. Peanut butter is a staple for many kids particularly those who live in poverty. It’s cheap and a good source of protein.

    The mentality that a community must alter to accomodate a few is not very fair and I would hope parents of children with these allergies would understand the burden they put on everyone to accomodate them.

    My son is type 1 diabetic. I do not nor did I ever expect the school to ban all sugar or make it the responsibility of anyone else to make sure my son’s health was looked after. It’s up to us as parents to teach our kids that they have a different lifestyle. It’s hard but it’s necessary.

    • You clearly do not know how food allergies can work. Some kinds of food allergies are so lethal that even TRACES of peanut butter (or other allergens) left on a desk (after lunch, for example) can trigger a severe allergic reaction. The purpose of nut bans is not to help kids who are allergic “avoid temptation” but rather to prevent them from becoming seriously ill. Your analogy sucks.

      • Some food allergies are severe enough that just the smell of the allergen can trigger a reaction. As a nanny and babysitter I work with several kids that have major allergies, that require EpiPens. 1) A 3 year old that can only have milk when it’s in baked goods (otherwise no dairy at all), no eggs (instant vomiting) and no nuts (can be bad enough for anaphylaxis if he ingests it). 2) A 3 year old that can only have eggs if they’re in baked goods (nothing where eggs is the main ingredient) and probably no nuts (not tested yet, and hasn’t had them) and his 9 year old brother is allergic to all nuts (anaphylaxis, has to be across the room when someone else is eating them, can’t touch something if someone ate something with nuts then touched that item before they washed their hands!) and shellfish. 3) A 4 year old that is allergic to all nuts. 4) A 10 year old that is allergic to all nuts AND has asthma, making any reaction to them, no matter how minor, faster and worse than it otherwise would be! And the level of sensitivity for nuts especially varies depending on the person. Sometimes it’s just if they ingest it. But some people can’t even smell it, otherwise it triggers a reaction that could kill them within minutes. I myself have MANY food allergies and have an EpiPen for several fruits. Asthma, as well (making any reaction faster than it would otherwise be). That moment of panic when you know your rescue inhaler and benadryl aren’t working and you have no EpiPen (because your allergist won’t give you one) is something I hope no one else EVER has to feel!!!

        I understand that it is considered a staple for lower income families, but with so many children being diagnosed with nut allergies I totally understand if schools ban peanut butter! They can bring other cheap staple food to school and save the pb & j for home where there’s no chance it can KILL anyone else!!

        Sorry for the story. I don’t think people can fully realize how bad allergic reactions can be unless they’ve ever been touched by it.

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