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  • Writer's pictureFrancesca McGuire

Our Allergic Life: From Fear to Confidence Managing Anaphylaxis

Guest author and food allergy mom Francesca McGuire encourages families with food allergies to make peace with their auto-injector devices — to practice with them — so they have the confidence to inject without hesitation for an allergic emergency.


Find out why having a different type of auto-injector device from the one she was initially prescribed for her boys quelled Francesca's hesitation to use it and boosted her confidence.


two small boys smile and hug each other

Dec 12, 2019.


You probably couldn’t tell me where you were or what you were doing on that day.


You know where I was? I was 9 months pregnant and laying over a hospital bed begging and screaming for my 18-month-old son Miles’ life. Not because of an accident. But because of peas.


This was our first (of what would be many) run-ins with what I would come to soon learn was anaphylaxis. That thing I’d only heard about in movies.


I’m the mom of 2 of the coolest little dudes with the biggest hearts you’ll ever meet, plus a feisty little daughter who rules the roost. It just happens that both boys deal with these life-altering food allergies.


Now, we aren’t talking about a few hives here. Or a bit of itching. Or an upset stomach. We are talking about the kind that can kill you, easily and quickly and because of allergens that just so happen to be everywhere, all of the time. Between the two boys we manage over 20 allergens, so complete avoidance feels impossible.

That night in December caught my husband and me off-guard. Neither of us (and no one we know) has allergies. We had no idea what was happening and why our son Miles went from happily playing and watching Christmas movies, to struggling to breathe in a heartbeat.


Two weeks after that horrible night, Maddox was born and Miles became a big brother.


In March we did some bloodwork to test Miles for allergens. I got the phone call with the results saying “he’s allergic to (insert all Top 8 and then some), avoid cooking with the same utensils if you use his allergens, and have him stop eating all of these immediately.”


That’s it. No further direction.


The pandemic was gaining momentum, and because of that we weren’t able to get in to see an allergist until August. We were looking at navigating months and months completely on our own.


After I scheduled that appointment, I bawled. I was hysterical. Talk about a whirlwind of emotions!


Then I did what everyone else does when they don’t know what to do. I turned to Google. I kept seeing “epi pen epi pen epi pen” everywhere. I called the doctor back and asked if I could get a prescription for one and they just said “Ummm sure, we can do that.” Again, no further direction,


So then I turned to YouTube (What parents did before these resources? I’ll never know.)

I see this gigantic epi pen device that I had to ram into my toddler’s thigh to activate the needle and I got very overwhelmed. Very quickly.


I pulled myself together and immediately went through my pantry to find what he could safely eat. I could not make heads or tails of what I was seeing. I’d never even looked at ingredient labels before. I never had to!


Some had allergens listed in bold, some didn’t, some had a “may contain” and some didn’t… but seemingly everything had our allergens in it. I called my husband and asked him to run to the store and buy everything that’s a “whole” food that didn’t have other ingredients in it so we didn’t have to decipher anything. And we went from there. I learned to cook everything from scratch, and even then we kept finding more and more foods he was allergic to, like bananas and lentils. Weird things.


I felt so alone. So uneducated. So ill-prepared for our new allergic life.


I quickly learned that I would have to completely submerge myself in this world to protect my son. There was no way in the world I was going to put him in a position where I would have to use that dreaded epi pen.


We finally got in to see an allergist months later (thanks Covid) and that’s when I first learned about AUVI-Q. I fell in love with the idea immediately (though I prayed I would never have to use it.) It was so tiny, so compact. There was no “ramming” involved. I didn’t have to go to YouTube to figure it out because the device literally talks you through using it when you pull the cap off. Allergies are always stressful, but for us, the AUVI-Q made handling a reaction much less stressful and for that I’m thankful.


We had to use it just 3 months after it was prescribed for Miles. But it wasn’t Miles who needed it. It was our 11-month-old Maddox. I was introducing egg to his diet and it didn’t go well. The reaction was severe. It came on quickly. It brought back that extreme rush of emotion and fear that I was going to lose a child— but this time I had immediate access to epinephrine and knew I could help him.


I will never forget that moment. The fear…


But then the relief when Maddox started turning a corner within minutes. I cried tears of joy. I had a level of confidence this time. If I’d had to use the epi pen device, I may have waited longer to use it because of the anxiety it caused me. And waiting during an anaphylactic reaction can be deadly. Seconds matter. I promised myself I would never hesitate to use epinephrine when I saw how quickly it brought my child (and us) relief.


We’ve had to use epinephrine 9 times to date between my boys for exposures to a variety of different allergens. I never hesitate when I see the signs of an anaphylactic reaction brewing.


It does get easier, allergy families. I promise you that.


So, take heart. Learn your device. Make peace with it. Practice using it. And never hesitate to use it. Being quick to use it is something you will never regret versus delaying its use, or not using it at all and facing the unthinkable.


Epi first. Epi fast.



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About the Author: Francesca McGuire is a resident of Normal, IL and is a wife and mother raising three children, two with multiple food allergies. She has a Marketing degree and MBA from Illinois State University, and works full time as a business consultant. Francesca has a passion for writing and advocating to keep those with food allergies safe. She is a contributing writer for 'Her View From Home' and you can find her articles about her motherhood journey on her Facebook page. She is also an active contributor in the NNMG Food Allergic Family Forum FB group and you can connect with her on Instagram.


Image: Courtesy of Francesca McGuire




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