Emmy-award winning actress Julie Bowen, known for her comedic role in “Modern Family,” is for the first time publicly sharing her family’s experience with life-threatening allergies to help drive a national conversation on this serious health issue.
Bowen is partnering with Mylan Specialty L.P. to launch Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis, a multi-faceted public health initiative that aims to increase awareness of and preparedness for life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis).
The campaign’s first priority will be to focus on educating the school community. Sending children to school can be a great source of anxiety for parents of children who may be at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions because the children are out of their parents’ direct care and supervision. In addition, recent tragedies involving school-aged children have highlighted the need to further educate teachers, school staff and students about anaphylaxis.
“Like most kids, my son spends 180 days in school each year and I need to know that the people he is with every day know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and what to do if it occurs,” said Bowen, who had no idea her son had life-threatening allergies to peanuts, walnuts and bee stings until he experienced an anaphylactic reaction when he was a toddler. “Fortunately, my son received immediate medical care and recovered quickly, but it was a wake-up call that anaphylaxis can occur anywhere and at any time, even when you may not think your child is at risk.”
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that has many possible triggers, may occur quickly and without warning, and must be treated immediately with epinephrine. Avoidance of allergic triggers is the critical first step in managing life-threatening allergies. However, allergens are not always obvious and accidental exposure may still happen.
To get the school community involved, Bowen is calling on students nationwide to join the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis Challenge. Students in grades 1-12 are encouraged to visit www.Anaphylaxis101.com and submit an essay describing an idea to help their school become more aware of and better prepared to support students who may be at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions. Fifteen students from across the country will be selected by a judging panel to win a $2,000 college scholarship.
“My son is only five, but he has already started to take responsibility for his life-threatening allergies and become his own advocate,” said Bowen, who will star in a public service announcement (PSA) about anaphylaxis. “Through the Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis Challenge, students across the country will have the opportunity to educate their peers and help everyone be more aware of life-threatening allergies.”
Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, though it can also be triggered by insect stings, medications, latex or other allergens. It is estimated that one in 13 children in the U.S. suffer from a food allergy and a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the incidence increased 18 percent from 1997 to 2007. Up to 1,500 deaths each year are caused by life-threatening allergic reactions.
“Anaphylaxis is a significant public health issue in our nation’s schools, where accidental exposures to allergens may occur,” Hemant Sharma, M.D., associate chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “We need to make sure everyone responsible for the safety of children in schools knows how to identify and avoid allergic triggers, recognize anaphylaxis signs and symptoms, and understand how to quickly get appropriate treatment and immediate medical care when a life-threatening allergic reaction occurs.”
Get Schooled In Anaphylaxis Challenge Entry Information
The Get Schooled in Anaphylaxis Challenge encourages school-aged children in grades 1-12 to write a brief essay and submit up to two visual images. Submissions should explain an idea to:
- Improve awareness of life-threatening allergies in schools;
- Help students who may be at risk for life-threatening allergic reactions feel more accepted in their school; or
- Provide a unique solution to a challenge faced by students who may be at risk for anaphylaxis.
Each entry will be evaluated by a judging panel including family caregivers, doctors, school nurses, advocacy groups and others in the allergy community. Winners will be selected based on creativity and originality of the idea, the clarity of the proposed solution and the potential for implementation of the idea.
Essays can be submitted from September 26, 2012 to November 9, 2012.
For more information visit www.Anaphylaxis101.com.