Healthy Kids: Take aim at allergies

Hay fever is triggered by pollen or mould spore allergens during the spring, summer or fall. The proper term is “seasonal allergic rhinitis” and symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, itchy skin and eyes, and red, watery eyes. Hay fever is the most prevalent chronic illness diagnosed in children younger than 18 years — and the incidence is increasing.

Many of the conventional drug therapies can lead to unpleasant side effects, so more and more parents are looking for safe, natural alternatives for their kids.

Food Foes: Dairy foods are known to thicken mucus and stimulate an increase in mucus production, so they are best avoided during allergy season. Some children will be sensitive to whole wheat at this time as well.

Research has also shown that bananas, cantaloupes, cucumbers, honeydew melon, watermelon and zucchini contain proteins that resemble the pollen found in ragweed and may cause reactions in sensitive children. Food additives may also worsen symptoms.

Supplement Strategies: Stinging nettle is a very effective herbal treatment for hay fever. It is best taken with food and should not be given to children under 4 years.

Quercetin works as a antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and as a natural antihistamine. It is a plant pigment (flavonoid) and can be taken by children if the dose is adjusted (most adult dosages are for a 150-pound person). One study found it to be twice as effective as a commonly prescribed nasal spray. Quercetin is especially effective for allergies when it is taken with bromelain, a digestive enzyme found in pineapple that helps reduce swelling and inflammation caused by hay fever.

Vitamin C exerts a number of effects on histamine and research has shown that increased levels in the blood are associated with decreased levels of histamine.

A study from the British Medical Journal reported that patients taking homeopathics for allergic rhinitis experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms. These preparations work simply and effectively and are very safe, making them an excellent choice for children. Select the symptom-specific remedy that is right for your child.

Stop by your neighbourhood health food store and you’ll find the help you need and the products you want to manage the allergy season this year.

Sources: Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Zand et al, Avery:1994; British Medical Journal, Aug 2000; Alternative Medicine Review, Oct 2000; Journal of Respiratory Disease, Nov 2002; Natural Health, Aug 2003