AL: What would you say to a teen refusing to carry an auto-injector or asthma inhaler for fear of seeming ‘different’?
JF: There are a lot of teens who feel that it’s not cool to carry an EpiPen or asthma meds. I would really talk to that teenager about responsibility and being accountable for your own life.
For parents, it’s about talking to your child on a level of gaining more maturity and understanding of the condition they have. Give them information to read; the more they know, the more it’s in their own hands. It will give them the confidence to brush off what somebody else is saying. Empower them, let them know that their medication is there as a backup plan, not as a hindrance.
AL: Which is harder: managing allergies or getting toddlers prone to tantrums to behave?
JF: Both are challenging and in order to manage either requires knowing what is happening and how to handle the circumstances and what’s the plan, so that you’re feeling in control in those circumstances. As a parent, you’re in control in terms of how you choose to raise your child and we hope you do the best that you possibly can. As a person with allergies, you aim for control and you do hope that the rest of the world catches up in terms of understanding and compassion so that we will start to see food ingredients on restaurant menus and better accommodations on airlines.
AL: Do your staff or friends know what to do for you in an allergy emergency?
Yes. My executive assistant Cynthia knows how to administer my auto-injector and so does my significant other. In my very close circle, nobody eats peanuts, nuts, nobody has the enjoyment [laughs] of eating lobster or crab. I joke with Darrin [her boyfriend]: ‘If you’re going out with the lads after basketball, go for a Thai [meal]. He would love to own dogs, but sorry, no dogs. I often say, “I’m going to buy you a big tortoise”. [laughs]