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Former Supernanny Jo Frost Wants You to Be Prepared for Anaphylaxis

Allergy image
Jo Frost is prepared with her epinephrine auto-injectors.

Professional family expert Jo Frost has a passion for helping families in crisis across the globe, a task she tackles on TLC’s Family S.O.S. with Jo Frost. Recently, Jo teamed with Mylan Specialty L.P., the marketers and dis­tributors of EpiPen, on a campaign to help raise awareness for another cause she’s passionate about – anaphylaxis preparedness.

TV’s former Supernanny was just a toddler when a bite of shrimp sent her into anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction). That’s when her fam­ily learned she had severe allergies she would have to deal with for the rest of her life. In an interview with Coping® magazine, Jo (who is also allergic to nuts) explains how she stays vigilant about managing her food allergies, and how you can do the same.

How have your allergies affected your life?
I’ve got to have my anaphylaxis action plan, which includes avoiding all trig­gers that could potentially be harmful for me. So with my work, as much as children love PB&J sandwiches, certain treats are off limits for the families and the crews when I’m filming. And they’re very, very aware of it. You have to communicate with those around you so they’re aware, so that your environment becomes a much safer one for you.

You have to be prepared. I always carry two EpiPens with me, so I’m always prepared with my epinephrine auto-injectors. Then, if something does happen, I would administer one of those and seek emergency help straight away.

You have to dine out a lot when you travel for your show. What advice do you have for dining out with food allergies?
When you have a life-threatening allergy, even if you have your action plan in place and you’re carrying your two EpiPens, you must learn to speak up and to be assertive. Speak to the wait staff. Ask them about the menu. Don’t assume that if you don’t see any particular aller­gens on the menu that they don’t exist. Ask what’s in the actual food. There have been many times when I’ve said, “I feel a little bit doubtful. Could I speak to the chef please? It would really ease my mind.” Most have been very accommo­dating. When you have a life-threatening allergy, you need to do what’s necessary to keep yourself safe.

How can parents encourage their food-allergic children to proactively manage their condition?
I think by making them more assertive, making them aware, and talking about scenarios and circumstances that could put them in danger and how to manage those situations. Help them learn how to manage everyday life so they don’t feel handicapped.

What message would you like to send others with life-threatening allergies?
The more we speak about it and the more we educate people, then the more they understand that this is something we live with every day. We are working and we are living life alongside our life-threatening allergies.

It certainly hasn’t stopped me. I’m doing the things that I want to do in my life, whether I’m climbing Camelback Mountain or flying across the pond trav­eling from one country to another. I go to parties without thinking, “Oh my God, what am I going to eat? What am I going to do?” I would love for adults who have life-threatening allergies and parents of children with life-threatening allergies to have that kind of attitude. Having an action plan in place really empowers you to live your life to the fullest.

What else should people understand about serious allergies?
It affects all of us, whether we have life-threatening allergies or not. My partner doesn’t have any life-threatening allergies, but he certainly knows that if he goes out for Thai food, it has to be when I’m traveling away from home. I have coworkers who know not to bring peanuts into the office. When people are more aware of serious allergies, even if they don’t have any, they can become more empathetic to those that do have them.

 

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the EpiPen Auto-Injector and to emphasize the im­portance of being prepared for an anaphylactic reaction, Jo proclaims, “Show Us Your EpiPens!” Log on to 25YearsofEpiPen.com to learn more about anaphylaxis preparedness and to upload a photo showing how you take your EpiPen with you everywhere you go. “Upload those photos, and look out for mine, as well,” Jo adds.

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2013.