Trace Adkins on how he almost lost his daughter to a food allergy

05/27/2008 at 12:26 PM ET

Trace_adkinscbbjpgCountry singer Trace Adkins and his wife Rhonda experienced every parents worst nightmare when their daughter Brianna Rhea, now 6, suffered a life-threatening allergic reaction when she was 9 months old.  The cause?  A severe food allergy.

When she was around 9 months old, she grabbed the lid of a peanut butter jar.  There didn’t seem to be any peanut butter on it, but the reaction was almost immediate.  She began to swell up, to where she was almost unrecognizable when she got to the emergency room.  Just from the protein on the lid.

The 46-year-old Celebrity Apprentice runner-up admits that the experience was "terrifying" and that he had no idea just how serious an allergic reaction could be.

Most people don’t understand that anaphylactic shock [a severe allergic reaction] can result in death.  I had no idea.

Continue reading to find out how Brianna’s food allergy affects their family’s daily life and what he wants people to know about allergies.

How has Brianna’s condition affected your family’s daily life?

Well, she’s a trouper.  She knows she has to ask before she picks up any food, pretty much.  We have all had to change our diets to work around the things she’s allergic to — all nuts, dairy, and eggs.  We seldom eat at restaurants because it’s too risky.  That’s just how we live.

Do you find that people are sensitive to the severity of her allergies?

People seem to not really care.  I was doing a radio-show interview the other day, and a listener called in and said, "I was told that I couldn’t bring something into my kids’ school because other kids were allergic, and that’s infringing on my freedoms."  I thought, "You idiot.  Bring something else.  Are you seriously suggesting that you should have the freedom to kill my kid?"

What do you want people to know about food allergies?

That it’s a growing problem, and the numbers are getting bigger.  The fact is, it might be your kid next.

What would you say to parents whose kids have them?

That we have never gotten more support anywhere than we do at Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). Just go to  And welcome to the club.

Trace and Rhonda are also parents to daughters MacKenzie Lynn, 10, and Trinity Lee, 3.  Trace has two daughters — Tarah, 22, and Sarah, 19 — from a previous marriage.

Source: Redbook Magazine, June 2008 issue; Photo by Jim Spellman/


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Amanda on

How scarey! I’m glad their daughter is okay now. My nephew also had a severe allergic reaction to peanut butter at about 12 months old & it was very frightening.

Carrie Jo on

I have heard about other situations where mothers of children with severe allergies were told by moms of children without allergies that the restrictions in place because of the allergic child were unfair and infringing on the other families freedom and rights. If what Trace says is true and that severe allergies are becoming more common, it is time for us to become better educated about the seriousness of allergies and what we can do about them.

By the way, whenever I try to use an apostrophe, the quick find feature comes up. I am using firefox, but this is only happening on this site so far. Just FYI.

MB on

Thanks for bringing this important issue to light! I teach a children’s sunday school class and also babysit and subsequently have learned a lot about food allergies. I hadn’t realized before how many places could have nuts. For instance, whenever I took one of the boys I nannied out for ice cream, we always had to ask the person behind to counter to wash out the ice cream scoop in case it had traces of nutty ice cream on it. The egg allergy seemed overwhelming to me when I would plan treats for the kids at church, but one of my friends has introduced me to vegan cooking and I’ve learned about all kinds of great recipes that don’t use eggs, like rosemary cupcakes.

christina on

Up until recently I didn’t really understand how bad allergies could be. I would hear about schools banning peanut butter. I used to think how that would suck for my son since it’s one of the only protein sources he had.

We recently discovered he has a peanut allergy. even though he ate it often. He’s 10 and has eaten peanut butter almost weekly. What I have learned is that with a peanut allergy the reaction can get severe over time. he may only have a very mild reaction now but as he gets older it can get even worse.

parents need to be careful. an allergy can show up when you least expect it!

Michelle on

Well, of course it’s infringing on their freedoms! Our rights and freedoms overlap others’ all the time, and we choose whether or not to yield certain rights and freedoms every day. It’s called common courtesy and respect for the rights and needs of others. Yes, it can be inconvenient, but, wouldn’t they want other people to have the same respect and concern for themselves and their children?

tovels on

As someone who suffers from an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts as well, I can only agree with Trace’s statement about other people not really caring. As a child I once went to a birthday party where peanut butter was being served; I asked the mother of the birthday boy to please put it away, which she did. The other kids weren’t very pleased with this because they didn’t believe anything would happen from just being in the same room, so they all ate some of it and then exhaled in my face. Got all swollen and bumpy. Fun times.

It’s not just children, though. About a year ago I was laughed at and told that “surely just looking at them won’t hurt you”. (And I didn’t get an apology when my eyes swelled shut, either.) There is a serious lack of understanding and sympathy when it comes to severe food allergies.

Bottom line: If an allergy is severe enough, just the smell of it is enough to cause a reaction. Anaphylactic shock means that your entire body reacts at once; your blood pressure drops, your throat swells, and it can kill you in minutes. It’s not really something to be flippant about because you can’t wait ten minutes to eat that PB&J sandwich.

Sally on

Thank you very much for posting this article!

My child has a life threatening allergy to peanuts.

Every year at the school’s parent night I have to give a speech requesting that parents not bring snacks containing peanuts into the classroom. And every single year there is always someone who will roll their eyes at me or just flat out ignore my request. It’s infuriating. They might as well have their kid bring a loaded gun to school.

I can handle peanuts in the lunchroom. I just don’t want them in the classroom because let’s face it, kids don’t always do a great job washing their hands. The classroom is full of shared materials that could then become very dangerous.

So thank you again for this article! I’m always grateful for information that will help make people more aware that some allergies are actually deadly.

gigi on

****just a quick not to all moms…..

…don’t forget that a “nut” allergy is not just a “food” allergy!!! i made the mistake of lathering up my niece, who has a severe nut allergy, with a type of sunblock, not realizing the sunblock had coconut oil in it!!! we were in the emergency room in a half hour!
who would’ve thought??? i learned the hard way so i always make people aware of this now.

Nicole on

At my girls preschool we have a NO nut policy. If we bring something store bought there are major ingredients that the teachers check for….we have 2 children who are deathly allergic to nuts and I believe 1 is severely allergic to almost everything…it is so severe that every teacher carries an epi-pen in their pocket while working at school in case of an emergency….and still wouldn’t you know that people send their children to the daycare with a big peanut butter sandwich, disregarding that they could put someone’s child in severe danger. I am lucky that my children do not have allergies but I am also a wise enough person to be careful and take notice that others are not so lucky. I can’t imagine what Trace and his family went through, it’s unfortunate that they are unable to go out at times due to the risk but her safety is all that matters!

Deb on

I agree. My sons class did a craft with peanut butter and I asked for him to be removed from the room. Also at the school they have a NO PEANUT table, and they have the kids registered in the cafeteria computer so they dont buy peanut products… peanut oil is included/. Chickfila cooks in 100% peanut oil!

Dana on


My daughter’s preschool is the same way. Once, about every 2 months, there will be a sign on the front door stressing that no nut products of any type can be brought into the school. I cannot understand the ignorance (and blatant disregard) of some parents. Thankfully, my children do not have these types of allergies. Theirs are much less severe (milk with one, anything outdoors with the other). But I would never dream of putting someone else’s child in danger.

My daughter’s school even has special sign-up sheets for carry-ins. All allergies are respected and parent’s cannot bring in anything that is not on the approved list. Whenever a child has a birthday, they are only allowed to bring in pencils or stickers and the like– NO FOOD!

Carol on

The problem is that people don’t care anymore about anybody but themselves. I am severely allergic to shrimp (ever since a blood transfusion 10 years ago) and at an awards banquet last year the soup was seafood gumbo made with shrimp. There was no sign in front of the soup, no ingredient list, and the waiters had no idea what was in it. Why wouldn’t you serve something that is less of an allergen at a banquet?? People should be considerate. An allergy can develop at anytime in a person’s life as I ate shrimp for 30 years and then BANG I can die from it.

heather on

I am shocked at some of the stories and comments that readers have shared. Shocked that people get all up in arms about not being able bring foods to school that contain peanuts. I mean come on, it’s peanut butter to you but to someone else it’s a matter of life and death. It’s not like they’re saying you can’t wear shoes to school or something crazy… it’s peanut butter!!

Our sons class has a little girl who is allergic to peanuts and I was really happy that we were told and it’s posted on every monthly snack/share calendar that’s sent home as a reminder. I was glad for that so I didn’t accidentally send something containing peantus to class and harm this little girl.

I’m sorry that some people don’t have bigger things to worry about or focus on other than feeling infringed upon b/c they can’t bring a particular food to school.

Thanks for sharing your stories and Tovals.. how heartbreaking the way people have treated you 😦

Ann on

I’d like to chime in “for the other side” of the peanut butter-in-schools issue. I have worked for the last 5 years in a limited income section of an inner city and I have had many parents express genuine distress over the “no peanut rule,” and not because they feel as though their rights are being infringed upon, but because they are dependant upon peanut butter as a low cost (and still moderately healthy) way to feed their child, often children, each day.
I am NOT suggesting that this point should supersede the health and safety of children with allergies, clearly it shouldn’t. Period. But I am sensitive to the idea that the restriction may place a burden on some families with limited income and many mouths to feed.
This is not the fault of the child nor the family dealing with life-threatening circumstances, but perhaps it is something that should be considered more closely by schools and local government or non profit organizations.

Crystal V on

Wow, I can’t believe the blatant disregard to people’s health!

In reference to the so-called ‘freedom’ to bring whatever they want to school … there is a saying that I think sums it up nicely:
“Your freedom ends where my nose begins.”
Simply meaning anything that you do that can harm my body (or me in anyway) is no longer a freedom issue. Because the children are allergic to PB, milk, etc, means that you no longer have the ‘freedom’ to bring those as you please. Freedom goes both ways… those children (and adults) have the freedom to not be accosted with deadly weapons.

Christine on

My son’s throat closed up the first time he had peanut butter. That was, hand’s down, the scariest moment of my life. I worry constantly now about food preparation, read packages carefully, and still have to remind friends and family to be nut-free around my little one.

Shame on those who have such little regard for the lives of others. Eat all the peanut butter you want AT HOME, and stay safe for my son and the many other children with life-threatening allergies. Thank you.

brooke on

He seemed so nice on celebrity apprentice, how scary about his daughter

Kim H on

At least I am not the only one who has a problem with rude uncaring people! All 3 of my kids are severly allergic to peanut butter/nuts. We don’t know where it came from since no one on either side of the family has food allergies. My childrens lives are literally put in danger FIVE days a week due to peanut butter being brought to school. It is the younger children (PreK, Kindergarten, 1st) I get so concerned about since they end up with it on their faces, hands and clothes. Just one touch of a desk or supply…it is so scary! I should feel that my child is SAFE at school and not worry about them each and every day! And for those who can only afford the PB&J skip the PB and only have jelly! That is what we do!

jill on

Both sides of the coin here, as a low income single mom it has often been a hardship to avoid sending any peanut products to school with my kids since so many snacks “may contain nut products”, but of course I don’t want to harm any child. Yet, both of my children are allergic to wool/lanolin, sitting on a rug, contact with a wool coat, the use of baby wipes, hand cream, soap, by another person who would then touch my children, all would be cause of severe rash and swelling, yet the school wouldn’t ban any of these harmful things for my childrens sake, claiming too many people wore wool for them to ban it. I ended up home schooling my children for 3 years, resenting that I had to while nuts were banned from the school, but I do understand that if everything was banned that any child was allergic to,…there wouldn’t be anything left to make up a school. Thankfully, now in high school, both children have outgrown the problem, and so to must have the “nut” kids, since there is no restriction or ban of any products in the school.

Nicole on

As the mom of a severely peanut allergic kid I’m glad to see that most of the comments are understanding. For those that still don’t get it…. if you had been there when my sweet bright girl went limp in my arms, her body covered with swollen hives and struggled so hard to breathe…. surely, surely you would understand why I would fight a safe place for her to play/eat/attend school.

I’m not much for country music, but I am very grateful to Trace Adkins for helping to educate people on this issue!

Elyse on

I honestly cannot believe how insensitive people can be. It never ceases to amaze me. I have never known anyone with a severe food allergy, but I can I see the severity of it after reading all your posts. It was good of Trace to bring awarness to this issue. I will certainly be sensitive about this should I ever meet someone with a severe food allergy. And thank you to all of you who have posted. I definintely feel more educated and aware of the severity of this issue now!

Kim on

Actually Jill, MOST children with a peanut/nut allergy will NOT outgrow this allergy. However, once they are in middle school and high school it is not as much of an issue. Most of these children with the allergy are responsible enough and understand how careful they have to be. In addition, most kids that age eat properly…meaning they do not have peanut butter all over their face, clothes, hands and the tables. Yes, I know there are exceptions. My youngest is in Kindergarten and many eat school lunches. At least three times a month and for field trips the school serves PB&J pockets. Half of the kids have the peanut butter all over themselves and the surrounding area by the time they are done. Yes, they do go to the restroom before going back to lunch most of the time but at 4 & 5 years old many do not wash their hands and face enough/properly to take care of the problem. Back in the classroom they can easily touch a computer or anything else and get the allergin on it and a child who is allergic can touch it. Kids that young are always putting their hands in their mouths or nose and within minutes (or less) you can have a very scary life-threatening emergency on your hands. To see your child or any child/adult for that matter struggling for breath is the most horrible terrifying thing to go through.

Cheryl on

Two of my four children have food allergies (including peanut allergy)… I can see both sides of the fence.

Trace Adkins has done amazing work advocacy wise for the food allergic community.

The low income issue that Jill brought up is specious. Peanut butter isn’t the only inexpensive source of protein out there. In the area I live in, a jar of generic peanut butter is about $3 for a 18 oz jar, the same as the 3 cans of store brand tuna, and about $1 more than a pound of store brand bologna. I pay about $3 for a 1 lb jar of sunflower seed butter.

I do have to say that I have never asked for a peanut ban at our school, and that I can completely understand having to pinch my pennies on groceries.

Kristi on

I just got back from a GI appointment for my son and they are suggesting an allergy test for him based on eczema. While we were waiting I noticed a really cute flyer advertising apparel, etc. for kids with allergies.

Sally on

Kristi- Good luck with your allergist appointment!

When my son was diagnosed with a peanut allergy seven years ago, I had a mourning period. I felt so bad for the little childhood rituals that he would miss – like Halloween & visits to the ice cream shop.

But things have changed a lot in the last seven years. His allergy is now much easier to manage. The new law that requires manufacturers to plainly list whether an allergen may be present (before I would have to call companies to find out if “natural flavorings” really meant nuts)has been extremely helpful.

We are also able to eat in a restaurant now because people seem to be more knowledgeable.

Halloween is still tough because my son knows he can’t have half of the stuff he gets, but I’m happy to say we are now able to enjoy the ice cream shop!

Rebecca on

There are many alternatives to peanut butter, like other nut butters, soy butter, seed butters. I know that Walmart carries Great Value brand soy butter, in a sandwich it tastes the same as peanut butter (just don’t eat it straight from the jar, that’s when the taste difference is more noticeable.) It’s not that much more expensive than a jar of GV peanut butter. I know if either of my girls were allergic to peanut butter (it doesn’t look like it so far, knock on wood!) I would be suing anyone that knowingly brought peanuts or peanut butter to school in their kids’ lunches if they had a reaction. It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you have to get litigious to get a point across that something is serious.

Jenna on

Thanks to all who are posting! It is encouraging to me, as the mom of a highly-allergic child, to see this kind of discussion going on!

I am amazed by the ignorance and cruelty I encounter on a regular basis because of my daughter’s allergies. We have even had issues with family members who just refuse to put nut products away at the holidays or who keep saying that “a little bit wont hurt.” A little bit can KILL an allergic child! Just having someone touch her skin with peanut or egg protein could kill my daughter.

To other parents – hang in there! We’re all in this together when it comes to educating other parents, educators and school administration!

(And by the way – we have found two great products to substitute with. “SunButter” is made out of sunflower seeds and my kids really like it…I actually like it better than peanut butter! Ironically, the only place I’ve found it is at a health food store with so many “unsafe” products and bins of nuts that I can’t take my daughter into the store. We also use “Vegenaise” to replace our mayonaise because my hubby can’t live without it! It is a vegan product – but egg-free!)

I am hoping that more mainline grocery chains will start carrying more “safe” foods for us!

Donna Rendell on

My daughter was diagnosed with food allergies (eggs and nuts)when she was 9 months old. Then one night she was given peanut butter on toast by a baby sitter and reacted with swollen face and hands and rashes all over… After that I was so worried about people giving her food that I dreamt up a range of allergy awareness badges and stickers to alert others. The designs are really cute and the range has grown to include many other helpful products for allergy kids. The website is at
When my daughter started at Day Care, they were very strict about being a ‘nut free zone’ and I felt confident sending her, but now she has entered the public school system, well that’s another ball game! I have come across the same problem with parents having the attitude “my child doesn’t have allergies, so why shouldn’t they be able to eat what they like… ?” How would they feel if they were responsible for my child’s death because their child ‘only likes peanut butter sandwiches’… ? Thankfully my daughter still has not had an Anaphylactic Reaction, but who knows, all it takes is for one care-less person… It is like living with a ticking time-bomb!

Mary on

I want to mention about other nut butters, I thought it was ok to eat cashew butter during breastfeeding since they give warnings about not eating peanut butter. Now my child is very allergic to cashews and I read that the it is just as severe as peanuts! So pls beware of the other nut butters!

Lori on

I read recently that one reason so many kids MIGHT have such strong food allergies is that our indoor environments have gotten too clean. There is all of this anti-bacterial, pure, no dyes/additives/perfume items out there that our households are less toxic and kids immune systems are too protected… too pure. I am not saying we shouldn’t try and use some natural cleaners, but it is better that their immune systems should learn how to fight off germs once in a while. It is better for them to get a few more colds from germs than to have such severe food allergies. Obviously this is not the case for all children, but it is something to think about if you have children.