Ahhh… Spring is in the air.
For many of us, that means thoughts turn to flowers, Easter eggs, and baseball! For others, it’s sneezing, watery eyes… and tissues! According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 26 million Americans suffer with hay fever or some other form of chronic seasonal allergies. If you take in those with mild symptoms, the number could be as high as 40 million. Seasonal allergies in children usually appear sometime before the age of 6. It is estimated that 1 in every 7 kids in the U.S. suffers from mild to severe seasonal allergies.
For your little ones, it is not just the problem with the typical watery eyes, sneezing, and scratchy throat. According to Dr. Caroline Ware AP, DOM, seasonal allergies can “just make your tots feel miserable, they can affect their sleep, interfere with their concentration, and affect their school work. Allergies can keep them from participating fully with their friends and their social activities, such as sports, going bike-riding, on a picnic or a school field trip to the zoo…”
Dr. Ware says that the first thing most parents do to treat their kid’s allergies is to give them either an over-the-counter or prescription decongestant or antihistamine. These can bring some relief, but, “I don’t think decongestants and antihistamines are appropriate for kids, period,” says, Ware. “They tend to make kids tired, and they don’t really address the problem. They’re like putting a Band-Aid on the symptoms.”
In addition, there have been studies that indicate long-term use of antihistamines in children has been linked to depression, anxiety and learning disabilities. So before you reach for that bottle of antihistamines, consider that there are many natural ways you can help reduce your child’s symptoms of hay fever and other seasonal allergies.
Balance Is Key
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at allergies differently than western medicine. Where traditional medicine sees an allergic reaction as an automatic and inevitable response to the allergen, TCM sees it as a weakness in “Qi” or “Life energy.” If Qi (pronounced “che”) flow is disrupted or out of balance, the body’s defenses are lowered, and therefore more susceptible to the things you are allergic to. If you keep the Qi strong and flowing properly, you are not cured of your allergies, they just have less ability to affect you. “Basically seasonal allergies are when your defenses are down, and your body can’t handle the particles in the air. In Chinese medicine we call this ‘protective Qi” explains Dr. Ware. “The whole idea is by eating right and otherwise supplementing your body’s Qi, you can keep your defenses stronger. Sugar, nitrates, and other junk foods typically eaten by kids, lower their defenses. However, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds will help enhance it. This is the first step.”
The most common methods to enhance or restore Qi in TCM are acupuncture and herbal medications. Dr. Ware has used both effectively to bring relief to kids with seasonal allergies. “When treating children, many acupuncturists will use laser acupuncture or tui na, so parents don’t have to worry about the needles,” says Dr. Ware. “This is a completely painless needle-free approach to treating children. Acupuncture helps because it corrects any underlying imbalances the body may have and will correct the root cause of the child’s lowered defenses. There are also herbs to help build up your defenses; one, in particular, is called yu ping feng san. It’s very common to give this herb to children and adults prior to the onset of allergy season.” Dr. Ware goes on to explain that Chinese herbs not only relieve symptoms over time by gently improving the immune system, many of them also have an immediate effect like an antihistamine, without any of the side effects of the drugs.
Dr. Ware says “more conventional” supplementation can also be of great help. “vitamin C and the many other powerful antioxidant vitamins can help minimize a lot of seasonal allergy symptoms.”
The Nose Knows
It may seem obvious but one of the other ways to naturally deal with your kid’s hay fever is to keep them away from pollen and the other irritants that trigger their reactions. That means trying to remain indoors when you know the pollen count is particularly high, and keep the indoor air as clean as possible. You may not be able to eliminate pollen outside, but you can do so inside. Get an air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter, which removes pollen and dust from the air, and run it in your child’s bedroom 24 hours a day.
So now that you know some all-natural ways to combat pollen, you and your kids can maybe stop and smell the roses — and other flowers too — this allergy season!