"Supernanny" Jo Frost: Raising Food Allergy Awareness
[Updated May 15, 2015]
Well-known family expert Jo Frost wants to empower every kid who lives with a food allergy. As America’s favorite nanny, Frost’s reasons are both professional and personal. She herself has life-threatening allergies to shellfish, peanuts and tree nuts.
Frost had her first life-threatening reaction—to shellfish—when she was 4. She credits her parents with teaching her to be vigilant about her safety. They also helped her develop a voice to alert family members, friends and classmates to her food allergies. The matter-of-fact conversations explaining her allergies and what steps were necessary at school outings, social events and sleepover parties instilled confidence in Frost at a young age. It also informed those around her about food allergies.
“The more we can educate Americans about life-threatening allergies, the more we can create understanding and empathy. Then more people who don’t have allergies will be willing and committed to making sure that we create a safer world,” she says.
Frost has teamed with professional football player Adrian Peterson to help raise awareness about food allergies in honor of the 25th anniversary of the launch of the EpiPen. Mylan Specialty LP, distributor of EpiPen, is donating $25 to nonprofit allergy groups for every photo uploaded to 25yearsofepipen.com. Frost has posted a photo of herself with her EpiPens and she encourages others to upload pictures of their own. This is one way that children can see that they’re not alone, she says.
“If you see me on the red carpet with a clutch bag, know that two EpiPens are in that clutch bag—because it’s so necessary,” says Frost, who is best known for helping countless families in the popular television show Supernanny. She now stars on TLC’s reality series, Family S.O.S. with Jo Frost, which premiered in May.
The international star wants to show kids that food allergies don’t have to stop them from living full and fruitful lives. She has traveled to 47 states for her job. Wherever she goes, she always carries an allergy action plan and her two EpiPens.
Nobody in her television crew or in the families she works with can have shellfish, nuts or peanut butter. In fact, her crew goes in and completely removes all peanut butter from the family’s kitchen before Frost ever enters the home.
“It’s about creating a safe environment for me to be able to do the job that I do,” Frost says. “I don’t want to be restricted from being able to kiss and cuddle the children.”
When Frost explains to the children that Nanny Jo Jo can’t have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because it will cause a life-threatening reaction, she knows she is helping educate those families about food allergies.
Children with food allergies do the same when they tell their friends why they must avoid certain foods to keep themselves safe, she says.
Caregivers and children should repeatedly go over the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, practice using the auto-injector (using trainers or expired injectors on an orange) and rehearse what to do during and after a reaction. All this helps instill the confidence necessary for kids to explain their medical condition to others and to correctly use an auto-injector, she says.
“The more kids understand their allergy, the more confident they become,” Frost says. “The more they know the drill, the better.”
Wendy Mondello (tasteofallergyfreeliving.blogspot.com) lives in North Carolina.