So your child doesn’t have a fever, and the closest she’s come to hay was at a petting zoo last Fall, but thanks to the Springtime return of the misnomer, hay fever (allergic rhinitis), she’s sneezing, and itching her runny nose and puffy eyes.
Hay fever allergens are airborne substances (such as pollen, dust, animal hairs, and environmental pollutants) that enter the mouth, nose, throat, and lungs. To protect us from the perceived allergen, our immune system reacts—the body releases large numbers of antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) to resist it. This IgE then releases certain chemicals like histamine, to flush the pollen out of the airways, causing swelling and irritation in the eyes and nose. While hay fever and Spring seem to go hand-in-hand, commonly affecting kids and teens, allergic rhinitis can occur throughout the year in the under-five set.
Here are the recognizable symptoms:
- Runny nose, nasal congestion
- Watery eyes
- Itchy, watery eyes, nose or throat
- Postnasal drip
- Facial pressure or pain
Let’s take a look at natural remedies for managing Hay Fever:
Vitamin C helps reduce the release of excess histamine and supports the immune system. In a study by scientists at the Arizona State University, researchers found that histamine levels had dropped by 40% when they administered increasing amounts of vitamin C from 500-2000mg over 6 weeks. Participants were adults. For children, increase intake to at least 500-1000mg per day. (Gummy-bear vitamin C is rarely turned down.)
Bioflavonoids are what give fruits and vegetables their rich colors. They are synergistic with vitamin C, which means if you use the two together, you will get even more benefit. Experts agree that the best bioflavonoid for hay fever is quercetin, a natural antihistamine. Quercetin reduces inflammation of the nasal passages, the bronchial airways, and throat. It is found naturally in apples (with the skin on), berries, red grapes and red onion, but to be certain your child is getting an adequate amount, try a tincture that can be added to a vitamin C-fortified juice.
Try toasting your good health at a tea party with your child. Naturopaths recommend a daily teaspoon of freshly-produced, unfiltered honey dissolved in warm water to help keep hay fever symptoms at bay. Naturopaths say this works like a vaccine, delivering a tiny dose of local pollen, which is usually the main trigger for an attack. This tiny daily dose then helps the body build resistance so that when hay fever season arrives and pollen is everywhere, the body is already protected. (Clinical studies have not provided any evidence for this belief. Nor are there studies to prove that squeezing a honey-bear makes a kid feel better, but I’m willing to state that it should. On a personal note, this is the one remedy that worked for my 3-year-old, Joseph. Although his hay fever is not a particularly aggravated case, a little honey squeezed over natural yogurt once each day keeps all symptoms in check.) Also, try lemonade-as-medicine: serve honey and boiled grapefruit and lemon three times a day for your vit-y C and pollen vaccine in one re-hydrating cup. Offer it cold over ice.
(Remember, babies under age 1 should not ingest honey.)
Hay Fever and Heredity
Do you have a family history of allergic reactions or related conditions such as asthma and eczema? If this is the case, you need to focus on stabilizing the immune system. You can begin by avoiding flour, sugar, salt and dairy products for one week to see if these allergy-aggravators are linked to your child’s condition. Be sure to offer plenty of filtered water, and serve good-quality protein.
Two cautionary notes: 1). One of the most effective natural remedies for hay fever is Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), a plant-tasting nettle tea. Stinging nettle is a “hotbed of herbal pharmacological activity,” according to whatreallyworks.co.uk, containing both vitamins C and K, immune-boosting proteins, and an anti-inflammatory agent to counter the action of the body’s histamine discharge. While there is plenty of research to support this claim, I did find instances where it was not recommended for children under ten. Similarly, some research states that pregnant women should not take it, while others said the opposite. 2.) The herb butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is being studied as a natural allergy treatment because it is thought to work in a similar way to allergy medications by blocking the action of histamine and leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals involved in allergic reactions. It should be noted that children and pregnant women are advised to avoid butterbur. Furthermore, butterbur is in the ragweed plant family, so people who are allergic to ragweed, marigold, daisy, or chrysanthemum should not use butterbur.
For a lively and informative read on one hay-fever-sufferer’s trials with prescription meds and triumphs with homeopathic and other natural remedies, check out Colette Cope’s Natural Remedies to Fight Hay Fever here.