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Allergy awareness can save kids’ lives

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Jennifer Tumber knows what it’s like to raise a child living with life-threatening allergies.


Her five-year-old son, Brayden, was diagnosed with severe allergies to dairy products and eggs when he was just nine months old.


Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can lead to death if left untreated. The potential causes include food, medication, insect stings, latex and exposure to cold.


Tumber is a member of the Manitoba Anaphylaxis Information Network, which will hold its first walk for awareness — called EpiPen TAKE ACTION — on May 14 at the Duck Pond in Assiniboine Park.


The walk is in support of a national organization called the Allergy/Asthma Information Association.


Tumber, who lives in Island Lakes, wants other parents to use Brayden’s experiences as a springboard for allergy awareness.


"When we fed him some formula that had milk in it, he developed a rash around his mouth, he was irritable and he just didn’t look right. And after a few times giving him yogurt and cheese, we took him to see a doctor and then a specialist," Tumber said.


As a result, Brayden now carries an EpiPen everywhere he goes. Roughly the size of large Magic Marker, an EpiPen delivers a measured dose, or doses, of epinephrine, to treat the shock.


"Thankfully, we’ve only had one serious incident when he had a reaction at daycare in 2008. You live and learn. I rushed over there and injected him in his thigh," Tumber said. "It was the most stressful day of my life, although the most stressful part was probably the drive over there."


The married mother-of-two said that if parents can relate to Brayden’s symptoms, or feel unsure about anything related to feeding, they shouldn’t wait to see a physician.


She added her son understands his condition "on a five-year-old level" and is very responsible about dealing with his allergies, which includes only consuming his own food and drink.


An event organizer said that allergy awareness has improved significantly during the last 25 years.


"Now people are more educated. Back then, they thought you were crazy if you said children could die from it," said Nancy Boni, a co-ordinator with MAIN.


Boni’s daughter, Allison, who is now 22, has approximately a dozen allergies, including a severe reaction to horses.


"We first discovered a peanut allergy when she was one and we gave her a speck of peanut butter on toast. Her whole head swelled up," said Boni, who lives in North Kildonan.


"Back then, there was very little information. It could take up to a year to see an allergist, so I became involved with her school, helped develop guidelines and, as a parent, was allowed to sit on a school division committee."


Registration for the May 14 event will start at 9:30 a.m. and there will be two walks — 2.5 km and 5 km — that will begin an hour later.


For more information, call Boni at 654-2676, email mainmanitoba@shaw.ca or visit www.aaia.ca.

simon.fuller@canstarnews.com

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