Seasonal Allergies + Children: Our Children-Focused Naturopathic Doctor's Approach
April showers, bring May flowers!!! And with that allergy season is right around the corner.
Our children focused naturopathic doctor, Dr. Ashley Shea, is going to dive into seasonal allergies in children and how to help reduce symptoms during allergy season!
As much as 1 in 4 children will deal with seasonal allergies in their life, this is neither fun for them or their parents. Children excel mentally and physically with outdoor exposure during these warmer months, we don’t want them to miss out on their fun, because of their allergies.
The most common allergens include: pollen, dust mites, animal dander, smoke and mold.
Below are some basic factors to watch out for, consider and start implementing to help your children thrive this spring and summer!
WHAT DO ALLERGIES LOOK LIKE IN CHILDREN?
Pretty similar to adults, which makes it easier! Symptoms to look for in children as the seasons change are:
- Congestion and runny nose with clear discharge
- Itchy and watery eyes
- Scratchy throat with frequent attempts to clear it
- Itchy or irritated ears
- Sleep disruption with night time cough (post nasal drip is typically the cause, and can make their throat look slightly irritated)
- Rashes, eczema, skin irritations
- Mood changes, irritability
- New onset or worsening asthma
- Allergic shiners - darkened circles under the eyes (can look like a "black eye")
WHAT ARE THE UNDERLYING CAUSES OF ALLERGIES?
As Naturopathic Doctors we are forever looking to the root cause of conditions to treat at that level, if and when possible! Allergies are no different - some of the root causes that we can help modify + optimize to reduce allergy symptoms are:
- Imbalanced gut microbiome. This can result from antibiotic overuse. Also referred to as dysbiosis, an imbalanced gut microbiome can increase histamine production and prevent the breakdown of histamine in the gut. Histamine is a main trigger for allergic symptoms.
- Stress. Our bodies release chemical messengers in times of stress, including histamine. More stress = more histamine release = more allergic symptoms.
- Poor nutrient intake. Poor antioxidant, fruit + vegetable, and healthy fat intake can contribute to an increase in histamine.
- Food sensitivities. Continuing to eat foods we are sensitive to causes an increase in inflammation within the gut, leading to dysbiosis, poor absorption of nutrients, histamine increase and reduced breakdown.
- Genetics. Some people are just more susceptible to allergies, and that is okay! We still have support for that.
Let's Get Into It: Histamine, Quercetin, Antioxidants + Why They Matter.
HISTAMINE. Histamine is a chemical messenger that causes inflammation, released by our bodies in response to allergens. Histamine is released into the blood and causes a WIDE range of symptoms, like the ones listed above! Histamine can be found in foods, and we recommend limiting or avoiding these foods to help with allergies:
- Artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. ND rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it don’t consume it.
- Dried fruit - apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins
- Fresh fruit - strawberries, citrus
- Vegetables - eggplant, avocado, spinach, tomato
- Cured meats - bacon, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs, sandwich meats
- Aged cheeses, goat cheese, cow’s cheese
- Fermented foods - sauerkraut, pickles.
- Chocolate (unfortunately)
That being said, there are also foods that are LOW in histamine, that we recommend eating more of! Simple swaps can make profound differences!
- Poultry, fresh fish, eggs
- Gluten free grains - rice, quinoa
- Fresh fruit and vegetables - all aside from those listed above.
- Leafy greens - romaine, kale, sprouts
- Olive oil, coconut oil
- Dairy alternatives - coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, coconut yogurt, dairy free cheese etc.
QUERCETIN. Quercetin is one of our natural anti- histamines. It helps prevent the release of histamine from our mast cells while also reducing the inflammatory response. Quercetin-rich foods to increase:
- Onions, garlic, ginger
- Leafy Greens: Kale, Romaine lettuce
- Pears, Apple, Grapes
- Berries; Blueberries
- Mint, Thyme, turmeric
ANTIOXIDANTS. Antioxidants, like vitamin C, help reduce allergic inflammatory responses throughout the body. Antioxidant-rich foods to increase:
- Sweet potato
Lifestyle changes are other very modifiable ways we can help support children with allergies, and reduce symptoms! Here are considerations related to household products, clothing, and hygiene!
- HYDRATE. Need we say more? Not really, but we will. Dehydration has been shown to increase the amount of histamine in our blood stream, mounting a larger immune response. ND rule of thumb for kids is to drink as many glasses of water as their age.
- NASAL RINSE. A regular saline rinse helps remove any allergens from the airway.
- AIR FILTER. HEPA filters are the general recommendation for air filters.
- SHOWERING. Showering after being outside helps remove excess allergens from the body.
- CLOTHING. Removing clothes that your child has been wearing outdoors prevents them from bringing pollen, dust, etc. into the home.
- BEDROOM. Remove all excess fabrics that hold onto allergens for the time being. This looks like stuffed animals, throw blankets, extra pillows, and so on.
- BEDDING. Pillows, comforters, sheets, etc - wash these weekly in hot water and dry on high heat. For anything that cannot be easily washed, put it in dryer for 5-10 minutes on high heat to remove any lingering allergens. Using dust mite covers is also a great idea.
- WINDOWS. Keep windows (especially in the bedroom) closed during high pollen times - as tempting as it can be to let the fresh air in this time of year, it let's allergens in with it!
So we chatted the importance of a balanced gut microbiome, but how can we feed those microbes to help them grow and optimize the good bacterias?
- Increasing healthy fats, antioxidants and quercetin rich foods as mentioned above.
- Reducing inflammatory foods: additives, preservatives, sugar.
- Avoid foods one is sensitive to.
- Improve the gut microbiome.
- Probiotics are the way to go here. We usually recommend either food sources or supplementations, but in these cases fermented foods are higher in histamine, which we want to avoid.
SUPPLEMENTS TO CONSIDER
As always, it is best to work with your ND when adding supplements into your routine in order to achieve the appropriate therapeutic dosage and high quality supplements.
Here are some of the nutrients we work to optimize when extra support is needed for allergies:
- Omega 3
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Immune modulating and anti-inflammatory herbs like astragalus, nettle, etc.
To dive into this further, we encourage you to book in with our children-focused ND, Dr. Ashley Shea!
Click Here to book with Dr. Shea!
The EASTND Team
To learn more about naturopathic care, we encourage you to contact our clinics!
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