"He started to get hives all over him," Tia Mowry-Hardrict recalls in an interview with PEOPLE about her son Cree, whom she brought to the emergency room
“My son Cree was diagnosed with a peanut allergy at the age of 3. It was a stressful time for myself and my family,” Mowry-Hardrict, 40, tells PEOPLE. “He was exposed to a peanut snack and he started to get hives all over him. We sent him to the emergency room.”
The actress and husband Cory Hardrict were recommended to seek out an allergist, who confirmed their son’s hypersensitivity to peanuts.
“This is all new to me. I didn’t grow up with a peanut allergy; nobody in my family did. Once we found that out, as a family, we were really stressed out about the situation,” Mowry-Hardrict says. “I’m not alone in this. My goal is to educate people and to protect my son from accidental exposure.”
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Mowry-Hardrict has partnered with DBV Technologies to launch an educational awareness campaign, called Talking Peanut Allergy, to highlight daily challenges of peanut allergy in children, which has increased 21 percent since 2010 and impacts 1.5 million children in the United States.
“You don’t realize how difficult it is to avoid peanuts in foods, as even the slightest risk of cross-contact can lead to life-threatening reactions,” Mowry-Hardrict says. “Normal activities — such as going to school, play dates, eating out at restaurants or leaving a child with a sitter — present added complications and anxiety for families with a child with peanut allergy.”
Mowry-Hardrict has incorporated changes into her son’s eating habits with sunflower and almond butters. “I’ve had to change his diet,” she explains to PEOPLE. “My main thing is I don’t want my son to feel alone or different. Avoidance is difficult because a lot of things are made with trace amounts of peanuts.”
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In addition to being cautious about her son’s peanut allergy, Mowry-Hardrict also reveals parenthood has been a big transition since welcoming her daughter Cairo Tiahna in May.
“Oh my gosh, going from one to two, it has definitely been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” she admits of her son and 5-month-old baby girl.
“It’s hard for me because there’s a big age gap. It’s just about trying to juggle everything,” Mowry-Hardrict adds. “Cree is on a whole different schedule while Cairo is a newborn. It’s all about meshing those two schedules together and feeling like one whole family.”
But the actress wouldn’t change a single thing.
“I feel by having Cairo at an older age, I’ve learned a lot,” says Mowry-Hardrict, who gave birth to her first child at age 33 and her second at 39. “I’m more at peace with things. I don’t have anxiety. I’m more, ‘You got this, Tia!’ I’m older and wiser. I’ve gone through trials and tribulations of motherhood.”
With raising Cairo, Mowry-Hardrict is taking her previous parenting experiences with new perspectives.
“When she’s crying, I don’t jump to a negative conclusion first. I weigh things out and relax in it more as opposed to being extremely [stressed],” she says. “I believe that comes with age and the time in between ages. I’ve been a mom for seven years — that’s a lot of growth and learning. There are still things to learn. I’m glad I’m set with what I want, with what I know, and I can focus on my children’s needs and desires.”
Mowry-Hardrict is taking on her first television role since becoming a mom of two in Netflix’s upcoming comedy series Family Reunion alongside Loretta Devine.
One very special guest on set? Baby Cairo, who accompanied Hardrict to visit the Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix vlogger as she begins filming her new show.