Keeping Kids’ Seasonal Allergies at Bay

Spring is a splendorous time: Birds are chirping, trees and flowers are blooming, and the days are finally getting longer. But for the child who has seasonal allergies, spring also means the onslaught of a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and a scratchy throat.

Seasonal allergies or hay fever is basically an inflammatory reaction to airborne particles like pollen, grasses or mold. A combination of genetics and environment determines who has allergies and who doesn’t; but inside the little bodies of kids that do, such allergen particles are treated as invaders, and histamine is released as a form of protection. It’s histamine that causes one’s nose to clog and run, and eyes to itch and water.

It’s pretty hard for a child to concentrate or even sleep when he or she is dealing with allergies. Even worse, over time these symptoms can lead to chronic ear infections and asthma. Though over-the-counter antihistamines can bring some immediate relief, a holistic approach that addresses lifestyle, environment, diet and supplements can minimize allergen exposure, boost the body’s systems and drastically reduce symptoms.

Keep It Clean

Keeping your indoor environment free of the particles that cause allergies will go a long way toward minimizing symptoms. It takes some effort, but the results will be worth it. Start with clean surfaces and floors and vacuumed rugs. Windows should remain closed, air filters should be used, especially in the bedroom, pets should be kept out of sleeping areas, and clothes and bedding should be washed frequently and in hot water.

Warm water is also a good way to rinse kids’ nasal passages free of allergens such as pollen, dust mites or dander. A teapot-shaped device called a neti pot can be filled with a solution of clean, lukewarm distilled water and salt. 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. One 2009 study of children with allergies found that nasal irrigation with saline decreased the need for steroidal sprays. Sterile saline sprays work too, and are sometimes easier for kids to use.

Have Good Timing

No one wants to keep kids cooped up, especially during the spring and summer; but since pollen levels are usually highest between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., 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 these directly in the wash. Little bodies get covered in allergens too; so baths after playtime or before bed will keep kiddos from bringing allergens into bed.

What kids put in their bodies can often make a big difference in the severity of one’s symptoms. Since allergies are an inflammatory response, minimizing similar 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.

Support the Body’s Systems

They aren’t quick fixes, but taking the following supplements regularly can boost the immune system, minimize inflammation and greatly reduce the agony of seasonal allergies. Talk to your pediatrician about using these to help fight your kids’ allergies.

EFAs: Essential fatty acids are what surround the cells in the body—like a strong, protective barrier. Most of us—especially kids—eat too many foods that are filled with omega-6 fats and don’t get enough omega-3s. Supplementing with EFAs 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 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 can provide relief by curtailing 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 is a flavonoid with antioxidant, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. When teamed up with vitamin C, it is a powerful immunity builder to help kids ward off allergic reactions.