As one of the stars of ABC's hit sitcom Modern Family, Julie Bowen knows comedy. As a mother of three young boys, she also knows drama.
Bowen, 42, recently opened up to the Los Angeles Times about one of her scariest experiences as a parent: when her son Oliver, now 5, suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction as a toddler.
Oliver, then just shy of 2 years old, was eating peanut butter when he was stung by a bee. Suddenly, "his entire face swelled up, his eye swelled shut and his lips became giant," the Modern Family actress recalled.
"We're not sure what the trigger was, but he went into anaphylactic shock," she explained. "I immediately panicked."
Bowen and her husband, Scott Phillips -- a real-estate investor and software developer she married in 2004 -- acted quickly and took their little boy to the emergency room, where he was treated with epinephrine. He made a full recovery, but the incident haunted Bowen; she has since become an activist in educating the public about kids' allergies.
"It was so scary," she told the L.A. Times. "I don't want other families to go through that...I want other parents to know what to look for."
"Parents need to get familiar with the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, to be vigilant and aware and know the triggers," she explained, adding that Oliver and his twin brothers, John and Gustav, 3, have also been taught what to do in the event of a severe allergic reaction.
"Kids are surprisingly able to understand the issue and be part of the solution," she said. "[Oliver is] young, but he's very aware of it and doesn't think it makes him weird or strange, because it doesn't."
"There's this wave of kids who have food allergies," she stressed. "Its a big deal; it's a reality."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Julie Bowen: My Son Almost Died From an Allergic Reaction to Bees, Peanut Butter