It seems unfair that children can get seasonal allergies – after all, they are so new to earth! — and it’s painful to see them with red eyes and stuffy noses.
But seasonal allergies in children can start between the ages of 3 and 5, or before 10 years in most cases, says Sarah Rahal, MD, a dual-certified pediatric neurologist with expertise in environmental and functional medicine and founder of ARMRA. While some children may soon outgrow them, for others allergies may peak in their teens before subsiding — or they may persist into adulthood.
Allergies are the result of your immune system overreacting to a particular substance. “Often there is a clear environmental trigger as well as a seasonality depending on which pollen the child is allergic to [like trees, grasses or weeds], in which region of the country they live and at what time of year the pollen count is highest. But other inhaled allergens such as animal hair, mold or house dust mites can also be to blame,” notes Dr. Rahal.
When any type of allergen is inhaled, it triggers an inflammatory response that releases histamine and antibodies into the bloodstream to fight off what the body sees as a foreign invader. This can cause the following symptoms: red, itchy, watery eyes, stuffy and runny nose and sneezing. Allergies are rarely accompanied by a fever, which is one way to distinguish them from other illnesses like the common cold, flu or Covid.
“In very young children, you may notice mouth breathing, irritability and fatigue, dark circles under the eyes, and frequent rubbing of the eyelids and nose,” adds Dr. Added Rahal.
Luckily, there are several natural remedies for seasonal allergies that can help kids stave off symptoms and get through the stuffy season with as little sniffles as possible.
Treat the cause
Over-the-counter medications like antihistamines and nasal steroid sprays can help relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies. But do you know that allergy drugs don’t get to the root cause of the problem, which is underlying hyperactivation of the immune system, says Dr. Rahal. “They only temporarily suppress symptoms and have knock-on effects that disrupt other important biological signaling pathways.”
Instead, she recommends bovine colostrum, which is the first milk cows produce 48 hours after delivery. “Colostrum is a native source of over 200 exclusive peptides, antibodies, growth factors and immune-supporting bioactives that serve as a blueprint for optimal immune function,” she notes. “It builds the body’s immune barriers, including along the nose, sinuses and lungs, to proactively protect against irritants that can trigger inflammation, like allergies.”
Colostrum is best taken in a daily dose during allergy season (which usually lasts from February to September) and is safe for children over the age of 1 who do not have a milk allergy or sensitivity. To see if colostrum is right for your child, consult with your child’s pediatrician.
Related: A way to prevent children from getting sick? Try cow colostrum
Test kids for seasonal allergies — and avoid triggers
Allergy testing can help identify which specific environmental allergens your child may be allergic to, which is useful to know when trying to avoid exposure.
Then the name of the game is avoidance. If your child is allergic to a certain type of pollen, keep an eye on the pollen levels in your area and keep the windows closed on days with high pollen counts or only play outside in the evening hours (pollen levels tend to decrease). something around dinner time).
If your child is over 2 years old, try to have them wear sunglasses and/or a face mask outside to provide pollen protection and prevent particles from getting into their eyes and nose.
Related: The Best KN95s for Kids
Try a cold compress
For itchy eyes, applying a cold compress in the form of a cold, damp washcloth over closed eyes can help relieve irritation.
Create a pollen-free bedroom
Similarly, turn your bedroom into a pollen- or pet dander-free zone by keeping the windows closed and running a HEPA filter during the day to filter out environmental allergens. If your little one is constipated, using a humidifier at night will make breathing easier. A bath before bed can also help remove pollen particles before hitting the hay.
Look for foods with quercetin
As a flavonoid (a type of phytonutrient), quercetin has been found in laboratory studies to suppress the histamine response and can be used to relieve allergy symptoms. Quercetin is found in large amounts in onions, apples, berries, and grapes, so try to fill your child’s plate with these anti-inflammatory supplements.
Find saline for quick relief
If your child allows you, a saline nasal spray can help clear their nasal passages and clear out any blockages, but it’s often a hard-fought battle with the under-6s. Look for a version that’s purely saline and atomizes in a fine mist that can be less startling.
Strengthen yourself with propolis
Propolis, a type of resin produced by honey bees, has also been shown to play a role in inhibiting histamine, making it a potential therapeutic for seasonal allergies. In the form of a sweet throat spray or mixed with honey, it is easy for children (from 1 year) to take.
Be aware of risk factors
Seasonal allergies and asthma often coexist. If your child has asthma, allergies can make asthma worse. Asthma is a risk factor for more severe symptoms of seasonal allergies. “Both conditions are inflammatory in nature — and the hyperactive immune response triggered by seasonal allergies can create inflammation in the airways that produce the symptoms we call asthma,” says Dr. Rahal.
If your child’s allergy symptoms are moderate to severe, talk to your child’s pediatrician about whether prescription medications are warranted.
Sarah Rahal, MD, is a Double Board-certified adult and pediatric neurologist and headache medicine specialist with additional training in functional and environmental medicine. dr Rahal is the founder of ARMRA, a life sciences company developing natural bioactives for gut and immune health.