Every year, cold and flu season ploughs through you and your kid’s sinuses like a wrecking ball, leaving people feverish, home from work, and school and feeling pretty miserable. However, even the worst colds do eventually pass, hopefully a little faster with excellent treatments like elderberries, steam, and a lot of naps. Unfortunately, as we start to close the door on cold and flu season (which seems to be still running rampant), seasonal allergies are around the corner. This post will talk about ways to identify an environmental allergy vs. infection, the impact of allergies on kids, and different natural treatments.
In general, environmental allergies don’t cause fevers and swollen lymph nodes like a cold or flu. Instead your child may have itching eyes, a constant drip from their nose and tickle in their throat. Some children cough and have difficulty breathing. If your child suffers from Asthma, this may be more severe. These symptoms can impact sleep and comfort and impact energy.
One common source of allergies in tree pollen which can come from hazelnut, willow, birch, alder, cottonwood, oak, maple, and elm trees. Others are allergic to grass and dust which can also be stirred up as the seasons change. Though the most common issue with these allergens are sinus problems, respiratory issues like asthma, and watery eyes, environmental allergies can cause other issues as well. Several studies have linked Allergic Rhinitis (aka runny nose) and Allergic Dermatitis (aka eczema) to behavior issues in school. Whether this connection is a shared mechanism or is due to the direct impact of the allergy is unclear but improving the allergy symptoms may make some behavior issues easier to manage. Other studies have shown that kids with allergic rhinitis can suffer from sleep disorders at a much higher rate than other children. One theory that wraps these concepts together is that histamine, the main body chemical involved in making you an itchy sneeze monster, is one of our often forgotten but super important neurotransmitters. In the brain, histamine lowers the “shut up” chemical, GABA, and increases “get ready to run” chemical, Noradrenaline. Too much histamine can cause all sorts of problems!
Some children in preschool and early elementary school may be diagnosed with learning disabilities or behavior issues when what they need is to identify and control their allergies so that the associated brain fog, congestion, sleep issues, and histamine overload can be resolved.
Let’s take a pause. Dr. Hart and I both have kids in early elementary school. This is kind of scary to think about it. Environmental factors in the air, what can we do?
The answer to this question is a lot!
Naturopathic Allergy Treatments:
Local Honey: Once your child is over 1 year old, honey is a great place to start. Local is better because it’s made from plants that may be causing some of the problems, and has bits of the pollen in the honey. There is limited research on this treatment to solve allergies, but honey can certainly help coughs and sweeten a nettle tea and perhaps increase the efficacy. Ideally this is an everyday treatment, a tablespoon of honey throughout the year to get your body used to tiny amounts of the allergy causing particles you and your child may run into in the spring. Sublingual immunotherapy is based on this concept.
Nettles/ Urtica Dioica: Yes, that one, the stinging one. From a more philosophical/homeopathic perspective it makes sense that a plant that has stingers may also be antidote for allergies. There’s a certain beauty to that idea. Luckily in this case it’s backed by science. Studies have consistently showed that Nettles improve patient’s allergy symptoms. Nettles work best fresh or freezedried, because the stingers in them have human neurotransmitters in them- like acetylcholine, which helps calm down the immune system. Often nettles are included with other herbs and nutrients to make combined pills and help with resolving allergy symptoms. (D-hist is our office favorite)
Vitamin C: Though we aren’t likely to end up with scurvy in Oregon in 2019, sometimes a good dose of vitamin C can make a big difference. There is a growing level of research showing that dosages of vitamin C can lower respiratory distress from exercise and asthma when given in relatively high dosage. Because vitamin C is pretty safe and inexpensive, this is a great place to start, especially if your child is resistant to eating fruits and vegetables. A combined Vitamin C/quercitin product may be even more effective. Cons: Vitamin C in large doses is an osmotic laxative. Don’t take so much that you or your children poop uncontrollably. Most adults are fine starting at 1 gram daily, and most kids are ok with 200 mg, but some folks have a genetic variant called G6PD that actually explodes blood cells with big doses of vitamin C. Natural things have side effects and safety precautions too!
Allergy Hygiene: What follows are lifestyle things you can do at home to keep allergies at bay!
Change clothes right away when you go inside: I like to think of this as being Mr. Rogers. Have house shoes, house pants, house sweaters. Allergens like pollen, dander, and dust are actual physical particles that can be on your clothes and in your hair or your kids’ clothes and hair which then sits on the pillow and continues to aggravate your immune systems overnight.
Keep your nights clean: On the same note, don’t let yourself or your kid go to bed without a shower or bath to wash those particles out of the hair and off the skin. Change the sheets weekly or more and consider washing your pillow, which absolutely should be getting washed. If there’s dust allergies involved like there are for Dr. Hart’s family, invest in pillow and mattress protectors to keep your sleeping space allergen resistant.
Air Filters: Investing in a good air filter is an excellent idea for families with significant allergies. You also need to change the one in your central air/ furnace according to your HVAC instructions. Cleaner air will improve sleep and lower symptoms and may help resolve some of the behavior issues associated with allergies. When choosing a free standing air filter for allergies specifically, there’s things to keep in mind like looking for HEPA filters, like making sure that the air changes per hour are on the high end of that rating, etc. We like the Austin air systems.
Neti Pot: Nasal rinsing systems, when used with sterile water as a saline/bicarb solution can be a great way to flush extra mucous and allergens out of the nose. Note that we said sterile. Please don’t put flesh eating amoebas by your brain. Plain sterile water will probably hurt, so make sure you get that salt mix dialed in.
Home/personal protection: Finally, make sure the house can seal up if your allergies are severe. Close the windows, wear a mask when you’re cleaning, refuse flower deliveries, etc. We jest about living in bubbles but thanks to modern tech, you pretty much can!
These are not all the options for treatment naturopathically and don’t touch on the standard treatments. With severe symptoms we may want to run labs and sometimes send a referral to a specialist as well as make sure you have rescue medications, especially in children with asthma.
Not sure you’ve got this? Don’t worry, we can help- get on the schedule here: http://vitalitynw.com/schedule-appointment/
Sources: you know we always got them for you, boo.