Lauren Collins Story
Canadian actress speaks out about living with severe allergies
Canadian actress and Gemini award-nominee Lauren Collins has tackled some tough topics playing her Degrassi: The Next Generation character Paige Michalchuk, but her most challenging real-life role is that of a young Canadian living with a severe, life-threatening allergy. Collins recently visited students at Frankland Community School in Toronto to discuss how important it is for kids with severe allergies to talk about their condition, for others to be aware and sensitive to their friends with allergies, and for children with anaphylaxis to always carry an EpiPen.
At age four, Collins was diagnosed with her allergy after ingesting peanut butter at her daycare. A few seconds after tasting it, Collins broke out in hives and felt her throat closing. She was rushed to emergency where doctors diagnosed her allergy. Since then, Collins carries an EpiPen with her at all times and is very vigilant around foods.
The actress is sharing her story to encourage other young people to do the same – and to always carry an epinephrine autoinjector. An injection of epinephrine is the recommended first line of treatment for someone experiencing a severe reaction, which can be fatal in minutes if left untreated. Further information can be found at EpiPen.ca along with a Severe Allergy Risk Test to determine your risk of anaphylaxis.
“I know it can be tough living with a severe food allergy when you’re young. I remember being chased around a classroom by a bully with a peanut butter cookie when I was younger. It hurt at first, but as I got older I realized that making others aware of my food allergies could save my life,” said Collins. “It’s really important for me to get the word out that food allergies are nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“Now my EpiPen is my security blanket and I never leave my home without it,” said Collins.
Research shows that young people face increased challenges in dealing with serious allergies due to a perceived stigma over the condition. Wanting to fit in with their peers, teens say they often ignore the risks associated with certain foods and are uncomfortable discussing the condition with their friends. A recent survey by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network revealed that 54 per cent of teens polled admitted to eating potentially unsafe food despite possible life-threatening consequences.
Lauren Collins began her career at the age of 11 in an ABC movie of the week and is best known to international television audiences as Paige Michalchuk on Degrassi:The Next Generation, the latest incarnation of the highly successful Degrassi franchise now in its eighth season. She also has a recurring role on the popular teen comedy Life With Derek which airs in the US on Disney and on The Family Channel in Canada. Lauren made her feature film debut in Newline Cinema's Take the Lead which stars Antonio Banderas. This year she co-starred with High School Musical's Ashley Tisdale in Picture This, and was also seen in the MGM coming-of-age feature film Charlie Bartlett, starring Robert Downey Jr. Lauren's performance in the high school drama, renegadepress.com garnered her a Gemini nomination.