It’s no big secret that living with food allergies is never any fun, especially for a kid. August Maturo, the young actor who plays Auggie on “Girl Meets World,” learned just how dangerous an allergic reaction can be the hard way — when he went into anaphylaxis on the set of the show when he was only six years old.
“I remember when I was six years old and on the set of ‘Girl Meets World.’ I accidentally had a cookie that had nuts in it,” he said in an interview. “My tongue was tingly, and my throat was closing up. I couldn’t breathe. I remember when I was in the ambulance and being taken away from the set. I felt like I was going to die.”
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that causes the immune system to release a flood of chemicals that can cause the person to go into shock. When this happens, blood pressure suddenly drops and airways narrow, meaning a person can no longer breathe. If not treated immediately with a shot of epinephrine (commonly referred to as an epi-pen) and a trip to the emergency room, it can be life-threatening.
A common condition
Nut allergies like Maturo’s — he is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, coconut, sunflower, peas, and garbanzo beans — are common. Unfortunately, so are all of the nuts he is allergic to. As a result, he has to be extremely careful and diligent about what he eats wherever he goes.
“I haven’t had anaphylaxis since I was six because I’ve learned to not trust any new foods, especially in restaurants, and I always, always read labels,” Maturo says. “I even call the manufacturer to find out if the food is made on shared equipment with my allergens, because putting it on labels is a voluntary thing and companies don’t always list that information on the package.”
It’s a lot of work to put into getting something to eat, which people without food allergies probably don’t think very much about on a day-to-day basis. It’s an especially big task for a 12-year-old kid like Maturo to be this vigilant about every meal. And accidents can still happen, even to the most careful kid in the world. Maturo says he always keeps two epinephrine auto-injectors with him just in case. His plan is: “If I accidentally eat any of those things, or if I have any symptoms of anaphylaxis, I immediately use my auto injector and call 911.”
Speaking up and learning to cope
Maturo knows from experience how hard this can be for kids, but he wants his peers to know that it’s not the end of the world.
“You don’t have to be scared, because you can learn how to manage it. Sure, you have to carry epinephrine with you everywhere, you have to always read the label, or call manufacturers, and you can’t have foods that other people can have,” he says. “But just know you are not alone, because many other people have food allergies, including me. There is a lot of information out there to help you.”
Maturo added, “A great resource is through the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) at www.foodallergyawareness.org. I am a spokesperson for this nonprofit organization. They have lots of great information and support for people with food allergies, including food allergy-friendly summer camps for kids called CampTAG, and a yearly Teen Summit for teens and their parents. I’ve gone to both and have made lifelong friends with other kids with food allergies like me. It’s nice to meet other kids who understand what you are going through.”
Kids can’t be with their parents 100 percent of every day, so it’s important they understand the seriousness of their allergy and how to communicate it to the adults around them. “It used to be hard when I was younger, because I relied on my mom. Since then, I’ve learned to speak up by myself because I’m older and she’s not always with me,” Maturo says. “I learned over the years how serious this is, and what it means to have a condition that is life threatening.”
There’s no denying that living with a serious allergy can be a bummer, but Maturo says if he can learn to live with it and thrive, there’s no reason you can’t do the same. “Food allergies don’t have to stop you from having a wonderful life and following your dreams.”