Don’t Let Seasonal Allergies Ruin Your Kids’ Spring/Summer Fever
By Linda Knittel
Birds chirping, trees and flowers blooming, longer days—everyone gets antsy at the splendorous signs of spring. But for the child with seasonal allergies, spring also means a runny nose, itchy eyes, and a scratchy throat, which can make it difficult to breathe, concentrate, or even sleep, and make the outdoors a less inviting place. Even worse, over time, these symptoms may lead to chronic ear infections and asthma. And, while over-the-counter antihistamines can bring some immediate symptom relief, side effects such as drowsiness may disrupt ordinary activity as much as the allergies themselves.
Support your child’s comfort with a holistic approach that addresses lifestyle, environment, diet, and supplements to minimize allergen exposure, balance the body’s natural systems, and reduce symptoms.
Control Exposure—Since pollen levels are usually highest between 5 am and 10 am, it’s best to keep kids inside until after levels peak. And once they come in from outdoor play, have them take off their pollen-covered clothes and put them directly in the wash. Hair and little bodies get covered in allergens too, so baths after playtime or before bed will keep kiddos from bringing allergens into bed and being needlessly exposed to an irritant for eight extra hours.
Minimize Inflammation—What kids put in their bodies can often make a big difference in symptom severity. Since allergies are an inflammatory response, minimizing inflammatory reactions to certain foods can lessen the burden. Many children have mild sensitivities to everyday foods—dairy and wheat, for example—that cause little, if any, day-to-day discomfort. However, throw in an annual dose of ragweed and the child’s allergy response shifts into overdrive. The solution is to identify and eliminate such culinary culprits—at least during allergy season—to improve a child’s ability to deal with the harder-to-avoid seasonal onslaught.
Keep it Clean—It takes some effort, but making sure your living environment is free of the particles that cause allergies will go a long way toward supporting better balance. Start with clean surfaces and floors, and vacuumed rugs. Keep windows closed, and use air filters, especially in the bedroom. Keep pets out of sleeping areas, and wash clothes and bedding frequently and in hot water.
Flush it Out—While it can take a little getting used to, rinsing kids’ nasal passages can help clear them of allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or dander. One 2009 study of children with allergies found that nasal irrigation with saline decreased the need for steroidal sprays. A traditional way to do this is using a teapot-shaped device called a neti pot filled with a solution of sterile (boiled or bottled), lukewarm water and salt (sea salt works best). (Sterility is important, as a dangerous infection occurred in Louisiana and was widely reported.) With head tilted, the saline mixture can be poured up one nostril and allowed to flow in such a way that it comes out the other nostril. Try it in the bath or shower for less potential mess, or try a sterile saline spray, which can sometimes be easier for kids to use.
Support the body’s systems
They aren’t quick fixes, but regularly taking the following supplements may boost the immune system, minimize inflammation, and greatly reduce the agony of seasonal allergies. Check with your child’s physician before starting a new supplement protocol.
Fatty Acids—Fatty acids are what surround the cells in the body—like a strong, protective barrier. Most of us—especially kids—don’t get enough omega-3s. Supplementing with essential fatty acids does double duty: it builds strong cells, and tames inflammation should an allergic reaction occur.
Probiotics—Having enough friendly bacteria in the body is proving to be one of the best defenses against a host of conditions, including allergies. In fact, a recent study in Indian Pediatrics found symptoms such as runny nose and watery eyes markedly diminished in children with allergies who were given a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus salivarius.
Nettle—Stinging nettle is a plant that may sooth symptoms like drippy noses and itchy eyes. Nettle works like an antihistamine, and can be consumed as a tea or taken in pill or tincture form, as directed.
Quercetin—Limited preliminary clinical research has suggested that this flavonoid with antioxidant, antihistamine, and anti-inflammatory properties may sooth allergy symptoms. Adding vitamin C may also help.